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Master of Business Administration

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Dr. Ioannis (Yannis) Bellos

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Dr. Ioannis (Yannis) Bellos is an Associate Professor in the Information Systems and Operations Management area at the School of Business, George Mason University. His research interests are found at the intersection of sustainable and service operations with an emphasis on innovative business models. His primary focus has been on service-based business models shaping what is known as the sharing and access economy. The novelty of these business models lies in the fact that customer value is linked primarily to the product “use” rather than the product. He also studies the emerging practice of service design as a managerial discipline. Prof.Bellos’ work has appeared in book chapters and leading journals, including Management Science, Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, and Production and Operations Management. Read his full biography here.

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MS in Data Analytics Engineering

MS in Data Analytics Engineering

James Baldo

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James Baldo’s engineering career has provided him with a broad foundation of knowledge and experience in engineering systems responsible for detecting, identifying, tracking, and predicting the behavior of objects based on multiple sources of data. Baldo’s work environment has been greatly affected by big data, which resulted in his utilizing new technologies and analytical methods. Baldo’s experience and skill in leading engineering teams has been instrumental in navigating the needs and expectation of business owners, as well as managing, galvanizing, and synergizing teams of talented engineers.

Baldo’s experience as a practicing engineer has provided him with a great appreciation in educating engineers with a solid foundation in mathematics, science, statistics, and engineering. As an instructor, Baldo packages theory and practice in his courses to prepare students for addressing real world problems. Read his full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Jim Baldo, program director for the MS in Data Analytics Engineering.

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MS Applied Information Technology

MS Applied Information Technology

Dr. Ioulia Rytikova

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Dr. Ioulia Rytikova is an Associate Professor and an Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology. She received a B.S./M.S. degree in Automated Control Systems Engineering and Information Processing and her Ph.D. in Automated Control Systems from National University of Science and Technology. Dr. Rytikova designed and developed multiple interdisciplinary programs, concentrations, and courses in the emerging areas of data sciences and big data analytics, computer and information technologies, health information technologies, and statistical analysis. Read her full biography here.

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Masters in Economics

Masters in Economics

Christopher Coyne

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Christopher Coyne is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and the Associate Director of the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. He is the Co-Editor of The Review of Austrian Economics, The Independent Review, and Advances in Austrian Economics. He also serves as the Book Review Editor for Public Choice. In 2008, Coyne was named the Hayek Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics, and in 2010 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy & Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. Read his full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Christopher Coyne, Director of Graduate Programs and Professor of Economics.

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MS in Health Informatics and Graduate Certificate

MS in Health Informatics and Graduate Certificate

Dr. Green-Lawson

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Dr. Zakevia D. Green-Lawson is the program coordinator for the online Master of Science in Health Informatics program in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) within the Department of Health Administration and Policy (HAP). Green-Lawson’s research interests are health information exchange (HIE), interoperability, electronic health records (EHRs), cultural competency, global informatics, health informatics and information-management curriculum development and redesign, online learning, and andragogy within health informatics and information management. Green-Lawson’s research has been published in the Journal of American Health Information Management Association, the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, and the Maryland Nurse News and Journal. Green-Lawson’s teaching responsibilities include the Introduction to Health Informatics, Health Data: Vocabulary and Standards, and Consumer Health Informatics. Read her full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Dr Green-Lawson, program coordinator for the MS and Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics programs.

MS in Learning Design and Technology

MS in Learning Design and Technology

Dr. Nada Dabbagh

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Nada Dabbagh is Professor and Director of the Division of Learning Technologies in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. She holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Design from The Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Science in Math Methodology and Operations Research from Columbia University. Dr. Dabbagh teaches graduate courses in instructional design, e-learning pedagogy, and cognition and technology in the Learning Design and Technology (LDT) and the Learning Technologies Design Research (LTDR) programs. In 2003, Dr. Dabbagh received the George Mason University Teaching Excellence award, Mason’s highest recognition for faculty members who demonstrate exceptional skill in and commitment to their teaching and learning practice. Read her full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Dr. Nada Dabbagh, Division Director for the MS in Learning Design and Technology program.

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Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Cheryl Oetjen

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Dr. Oetjen is an Associate Professor for the MSN & DNP programs in the School of Nursing. Oetjen’s educational interests include nursing leadership, advancing the role of nurses in health care, and quality care of children and adolescents. She is an expert on pediatric care — most of her career has been focused on improving quality care and removing barriers to access for vulnerable and uninsured children. During her doctorate program, her capstone project focused on the quality care of children with asthma. Read her full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Cheryl Oetjen, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing for the MSN program. Play Now >

Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Dr. Afra Ahmad

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Dr. Afra Saeed Ahmad is the program director of the online Master’s of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She received her BA in Psychology (2008), MA (2008) and PhD (2016) in Industrial and Organizational Psychology right here at George Mason University! Afra worked as an assistant professor of management at Zayed University in Dubai for three years before returning home to Mason. Read her full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Dr. Afra Ahmad, program director for the MPS-Industrial and Organizational Psychology program.

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Master of Social Work

Master of Social Work

Dr. Daphne King

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Dr. Daphne King is an Assistant Professor and MSW Online Program Coordinator in the Social Work Department/College of Health and Human Service. King’s research interests are self-esteem issues in teens and adolescents, mental health concerns and treatment modalities for women of color, specifically African-American women, and the impact engagement in Christianity or spiritual practices have on self-esteem. King is an expert in treating teens and adolescents with self-esteem issues and depression and has facilitated numerous clinical and psychoeducational groups on self-esteem issues for teens. Before coming to Mason, King was an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and a school social worker with Loudoun County Public Schools. Read her full biography here.

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Master of Education in Special Education and Graduate Certificates

Master of Education in Special Education and Graduate Certificates

Dr. Jodi M. Duke

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Dr. Duke is an Associate Professor in the Division of Special Education and Disability Research. She is also the Academic Program Coordinator of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Graduate Program.

Dr. Duke received a B.S. in Elementary Education from University of Michigan, a M.S. in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University, and an Ed.D. in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on postsecondary transition and college supports for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities. Read her full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Dr. Jodi M. Duke, Associate Professor in the Division of Special Education and Disability Research.

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TESOL (MEd Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction)

TESOL (MEd Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction)

Dr. Kathleen A. Ramos

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Dr. Kathleen A. Ramos is an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development, School of Education. She is also the Co-Academic Program Coordinator for the Teaching Culturally, Linguistically Diverse and Exceptional Learners (TCLDEL) graduate program. She is an experienced educator who has been working closely with culturally and linguistically diverse learners and their families since 1992. Dr. Ramos earned a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 and also holds an M.A. in Foreign Language Teaching earned at Pitt. She began her work as a teacher educator in Pennsylvania. Dr. Ramos joined the faculty of Mason’s TCLDEL graduate program in August 2016. As a teacher educator, she is dedicated to supporting preservice and in-service teachers locally, nationally, and globally to strengthen their capacity to serve culturally and linguistically diverse students and their families with excellence and equity. Read her full biography here.

MHA Health Systems Management

MHA Health Systems Management

Dr. Brenda Helen Sheingold

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Dr. Brenda Helen Sheingold is the Director for the Master of Healthcare Administration at the Department of Health Administration and Policy. She was awarded a dual-titled PhD from George Mason University in Public Policy and Nursing, a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, where she also earned a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Leadership and Change Management. Her research to identify and measure social capital in the healthcare workforce has been replicated by scholars globally and recognized by the Royal College of Nursing. She was founding faculty for George Washington University’s School of Nursing where she served as the Director of the Healthcare Quality Master’s and Doctoral programs. Read her full biography here.

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MS Computer Science

MS Computer Science

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Master of Business Administration Transcript

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Alexander Rodriguez, part of the online admissions team here at George Mason University. We’re going to give everyone a couple seconds just to join in. And hopefully, we can all follow along here.

If you want, please go ahead and put some questions down in the Q&A section of this presentation. And let us know where you’re coming from. Again, we’ll give it about a minute before we start this presentation.

All righty. Well, again, good afternoon, everyone. My name is Alexander Rodriguez. I’m part of the online admissions team here at George Mason University.

Today, we’re here for the Masters of Business Administration. And I’m going to introduce you guys to your faculty and a couple of students from the program. All righty. So, let’s get this started here.

First, let’s meet Associate Professor Yannis Bellos.

YANNIS BELLOS: Thank you. Thank you, Alex. Hi, everyone. Welcome to this information session. My name is Yannis Bellos.

I’m an associate professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at the School of Business here at George Mason University. And I’m also the director of the MBA program and business certificates.

However, I have to admit that my favorite heart is that of the MBA faculty. Someone who has been interacting with and teaching MBA students for the past several years, in a variety of formats, whether face-to-face hybrid or online.

I look forward to sharing my perspectives with you today. And I’m also thrilled to be in the company of Wendy and AK. I think it speaks volumes when current or past students take the time to talk about the program.

So when will you like to introduce yourself and then AK.

WENDY MILLS: Good. Thank you, Professor Bellos. My name is Wendy Mills. I am the account manager for Carestream Health. I am in health care. And I’m also an MBA online student.

I am an ex-student of Professor Bellos. I took his class a year ago. We were just talking about the online simulation and how much fun we have and bragging rights to the winner.

Unfortunately, I didn’t win. So I don’t have bragging rights. But I am in sales. I have been in sales for all my entire career.

I decided to do my MBA because it was a lifelong dream of mine. And I can safely say– and I’m sure we’ll talk about it a little bit more as we progress. But doing the MBA program, to me, personally, have earned me two promotions already.

So it has worked out very well for me. I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn. And I’m in really great company with Mason’s support.

ABDUL KHANDKER: Hi, everybody. My name is Abdul-Quadeer Khandker, but I also go by AK. I’m a general management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, and my focus is international operations.

So yeah, I’m in my sixth class in the MBA program. And so far has been an awesome ride. A very challenging program, very enlightening and very, very much applicable to my day-to-day job. Well, I’m sure we’ll talk about this as we kind of get into Q&A later on.

But as we take these courses, I always make it a point to try to apply newfound knowledge that we learn in the class to my day-to-day operations that we do at work. So yeah, same like Wendy, I’m looking at the MBA program as a way to kind of pivot my career.

I’ve been in federal consulting for about 20 years. And I find myself in a situation where I’m now able to pivot into a different role in international operations. And this program will help me get to that goal.

So very much looking forward to talking with you guys. Thank you very much.

YANNIS BELLOS: Thank you, Wendy. Thank you, AK. And Wendy, if you noticed, AK didn’t mention the simulation at all because he also didn’t win any bragging rights there.

So let’s keep talking based on online MBA. So if we go to the next slide, you’re going to see that our program comprises 48 credits.

That is 10 core courses, 5 elective courses, and 1 global requirement which students can meet by choosing between an international residency that involves traveling and a more traditional course with an international emphasis.

The international residency is one of the distinctive characteristics of our MBA program. All courses take place over eight-week modules. Each fall, spring, and summer semester has two modules.

Another distinctive characteristic of our program is that, although this is an asynchronous online program, we do keep the class sizes below 30 students. Most of the time, it’s below 25 students, which is not the norm with online programs in general.

The reason that we do that is because we going to facilitate interpersonal connections between the instructor and in general among students.

Students who enroll in the program take courses from faculty members who do cutting-edge research in their domains. And they are known and well respected in their fields and are frequently quoted in the business and popular press.

Overall, our faculty specialize in three broad areas: ensuring global features, the digital transformation of work, and entrepreneurship innovation. More than 40% of them come from an international origins, like myself. And nearly half of the faculty speaks more than one language.

In the next slide, I would like to draw your attention to one of our more popular offerings, which is the certificate in business analytics. This is a 12-credit certificate that requires four courses– data mining for business analytics and three more elective courses.

I should emphasize that students can pursue this certificate as part of the MBA program or as a standalone option without having been admitted to the program. They can use a certificate as a pathway to the MBA program or not. That is, if you join the MBA program, you can use the certificate credits towards the 48 credits that I mentioned earlier.

Speaking of bragging rights, I should also mention

That our program was recently ranked as number 17 for best online business and analytics MBA programs. In terms of course expectations, students should expect to learn a lot. And I think as Wendy and AK mentioned that already have fun.

No two courses are the same. Our instructors bring their own unique approaches and teaching philosophies. But overall, our courses are interactive and instructors facilitate active learning. In the next few slides, I’m presenting some examples.

So for instance, in the next slide, you will see here an example from the negotiations course where students can go through the various scenarios of negotiation based on different actions. And they can choose different actions.

The next one is from our core marketing course. And the last one will bring back memories to Wendy and AK This is from my operations management course where you see how we have created different videos to walk students through the various technical topics.

I even have my own avatar, as you can see, at the bottom half of the slide. In terms of a workload, the expected time per week is– and maybe AK and Wendy can give you more insights on that soon.

You should expect something between six and eight hours per course. But this, of course, will depend on prior education and professional background.

Our students have diverse academic and work experience backgrounds. But no matter what your background is, the MBA team– the faculty and the staff– are here to work with you. And keep in mind that in my experience, commitment is the greatest predictor of student success.

Now, one last thing that I would like to emphasize before I open up the floor and perhaps also hand it over to Wendy AK to make some comments about their experience so far.

I want to emphasize that students who join our program are not just part of the Mason MBA program or just the School of Business. They are part of the broader GMU ecosystem. So during the decision making process, I encourage prospective students to also take a look at the many, many resources.

For example, the various industry and research centers that [INAUDIBLE] can provide you access to. And I think in the next slide, we have a summary of admissions requirement in the form of a checklist.

Wendy, AK, would you like to add anything on this presentation?

ABDUL KHANDKER: This is a great requirements list. And I would add coming into it with a positive attitude. Attitude is very important as well. When you’re ready to sign up to an MBA program, it is a big commitment. As Professor Yannis has said, it’s a time commitment for your professional growth.

So I would just add that to the list, is just be ready for a commitment.

WENDY MILLS: Yeah, I agree with AK. I think it’s one of those unwritten requirements. If you make a commitment to doing your MBA I would suggest– there are going to be days and weekends when you’re not available for your friends and family.

You have to kind of learn to manage your time really well and the commitment to yourself having made this journey is to make sure that you are aware of the gift.

I see it as a gift you’re giving to yourself to strengthen your career, strengthen your background, strengthen your knowledge and education. And also, more importantly, a commitment to constant improvement.

And Mason– one thing that I’m sure AK will agree with me is the– even though this is an online program, it’s– I definitely don’t feel that it’s online at all. I feel that I am well supported by my professors.

There are times when I struggle through a course. My professors have always been available. I would email. They will always respond.

If I needed more help, they are always willing to either get on a Teams call or get on a Zoom call to make sure that I really understood the concept. So for that reason, I never felt like it was online.

And the other thing, too, is the friends that I’ve made. The friends that I started the courses with– we were strangers. And now, we text each other every day. We exchange information and we talk about what courses are you taking.

And of course, if you win in a simulation, you brag a lot. Which I didn’t get to do because I didn’t win.


WENDY MILLS: So he understands my feeling.


WENDY MILLS: The commitment that you make to yourself– you do have to stay true to that sometimes I also add preparation. I always start each semester being as prepared as I possibly can. And you know your own schedule best.

So there are weeks and days when you have to put a little bit more in because you’re going to be busy workwise for the next couple of weeks. Do that, but always be prepared and manage your time really well. Those are the two factors for me.

YANNIS BELLOS: Those are great points. And, A, I always want to make sure I emphasize is that asynchronous online program does not mean that you have to teach yourselves. Asynchronous means that, OK, you don’t have to be there certain times, certain days to sit through a live content. But faculty are always available for interactive or more interactive interactions. And so on and so forth.

So I’m glad that you brought this up Alex, will you open up the floor for Q&A from the audience? Or do you have any questions that you like us to address?

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: Yes so we do have– well first of all, anyone who’s watching this presentation, please put your questions– if you have any– in our Q&A section.

But while we’re waiting on that, we do have a couple of questions for you guys that students have sent in before the presentation. So the first one’s going to go for you, professor.

So how does the global residency course work? If students are unable to travel, what can they do? And what is the current situation with COVID going on?

YANNIS BELLOS: So we remain optimistic that actually we are planning to travel this summer. I don’t know if AK or Wendy are participating– are you eligible– not yet right?

So we are hoping that– I mean, we are moving ahead with our plans. So we do remain optimistic that we will be able to travel. There is a strong interest from the eligible students

We already have a good number of students who have signed up to travel. Now, if for some reason you are not interested in travel, you cannot travel, you do have the option to take a traditional course that puts emphasis on international– whether it’s international finance, international marketing–

But you can choose between, let’s say, traveling or taking a more traditional course with an international focus. And I believe that’s– Wendy is this what you have done?

WENDY MILLS: Yes. I signed up for international business strategy, which is starting next semester. Summer.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Perfect. So another question here.

During the application process if a student doesn’t have a calculus statistics or algebra course before applying do they need all of those courses before applying or do they just need one?

YANNIS BELLOS: Well, we do. OK, we prefer the students to have some prior experience with either calculus or stats or some– we are not focused on a specific course, per se– that it has to be calculus or it has to be algebra.

So but we do, overall, prefer the students who have some prior exposure to quantitative course. We don’t pick a specific one. But we do provide resources we have curated.

We have a curated list of resources that we provide students who feel that need help, quantitatively wise, to onboard them on the program.

I don’t know how– Wendy and AK– how you handled this. I think we provided your specific math prep course to go through. Right? Did you find this useful?

ABDUL KHANDKER: Yeah. Yeah, so before you actually begin your first course, once you’re enrolled, you’re given kind of like this– I wouldn’t call it basic, but kind of like preparatory math review course. It’s not graded.

It’s to help you prepare for a lot of the quantitative courses that you’re going to get throughout the program. So if you haven’t had a course or are weak in any sort of area of quantitative analysis or mathematics, it’s a great course to go through.

They cover everything that you need in order to prepare for the courses where you would need to apply those quantitative skills.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All right. So we do have a question here for Wendy and AK. How do you prepare for a course before the start of the semester? And when they can give more details on how you prepare before the semester starts?

WENDY MILLS: So professors usually send out their syllabus and their requirements for textbooks and– basically the syllabus– about a week or two before the start of your course.

When I get that, first thing I do is I make sure I get my textbook if there is a textbook involved. Whatever material that the professor says to get, I will make sure that I get from the beginning.

And then I kind of review that against the week one, week zero– week zero, week one requirements to see what is expected of– what’s the speed of the course.

Some courses are more intense than others. Some have more jam-packed material. Others are just a little bit more even keeled.

So I would look at that and compare it to my own personal work schedule. And I try to prepare and read up in advance as much as I can.

So this is a trick that I didn’t learn in my first two courses when I started, then I learned as I got along. Because it’s asynchronous, you’re usually not controlled or limited to staying in week one if you are, indeed, in week one, or week three if you’re in week three.

You can go as fast as you can. But at the minimum, you follow the calendar on week one, week two, and week three. If you are an overpreparation person like I am– so I try to read up on my textbooks, make sure that I do all the discussion boards, and respond to the assignment.

If there’s group work, I try to set a time where I am completely present and available for group meetings. And I try to get ahead as much as I can. And by that, I say if I can get a day ahead of the deadline, that’s great. If I can’t get two days ahead, it’s great.

And the reason I keep on building on getting ahead is because I am bracing and preparing for the time when I may struggle on a course concept. I may need a little bit more time. I may need to ask professors for help. I may need to ask my coursemates for help.

So I try to give myself that little leeway so that in case I run into trouble, or I get called away for work– which happens a lot– then I have time to prepare and still stay ahead of the schedule. So that’s my secret.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Perfect. So professor, we have a question for you.

When you graduate– and correct me if I’m wrong for the student that I’m answering this question for– if once you graduate with this degree, is it going to indicate that it’s an online program? Or will it say just Masters of–

YANNIS BELLOS: No. You’re getting an MBA from George Mason University. We actually invite online students who are graduating to walk during our graduation ceremonies– if they are local, of course– to walk on the stage and get their degree with their [INAUDIBLE].

And the same applies for the business analytics certificate.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty, another question for you. So do you think there’s an ideal amount of work experience someone should have before considering this program, especially with someone without a business undergrad degree?

YANNIS BELLOS: So I wouldn’t say that there is an ideal work experience. When we evaluate applications, let’s say– I’m not the one who evaluates. But when the admissions team evaluates applications, they look at trajectory. Or they look at the also quality of the work experience.

I will say that we have a two year minimum of work experience. The average work experience is something somewhere between eight to nine years, which means that we do have people who have close to two or three years experience.

But we also have people who have 20 or even 30 years of work experience. There is not an ideal. Ideally when you walk into an MBA program, one of your objectives will be to learn from your peers.

And learning from the person who has 30 years experience, or even the person who just finished his or her second year at his job– That’s the beauty of the MBA program– the diversity of backgrounds and work experience.

So I wouldn’t say that there is an ideal number.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Another question for you, professor– and along with Wendy and AK if you want to answer this to the second part. Are there any group projects and presentations? If so, how do students navigate this while in an online asynchronous program?

ABDUL KHANDKER: I can take this one. So as Professor mentioned in the previous answer, one of the main points about an MBA program is that peer-to-peer interaction. There are going to be a lot of group work. And it’s very valuable to go through that group work.

Being in the online program, it is going to be challenging for you to coordinate with your group. As Wendy mentioned, I think part of it is doing that preparation work in week zero, week one.

Another thing I’ll mention is part of this MBA program, you’re getting a lot of instructions. A lot of real tactical kind of knowledge and textbook reading and things like that. But what you’re also learning with this peer-to-peer interaction is those soft skills.

You want to be able to take those soft skills back to a new position you might want to apply for or your current position– you’re in an elevated position and apply those soft skills. And part of that is working in a team.

There will be struggles in your group work. But that’s part of the learning process as well. So as Wendy mentioned– and Wendy you can chime in as well– I think the best way to prepare for the group work is that upfront prep work you do in week zero, week one.

If you know that there are– as Wendy mentioned, your professor will send you the syllabus. What are all the assignments that are part of that course.

And you will see that, OK, for such and such course, there’s five group assignments for this course or two in this week, two in that week. When you have that knowledge, I would recommend reaching out to those students right away and establishing a cadence.

So hey, we’re in a team together. Let’s do this. Or if you’re not assigned in a team, I would work with your professor to get assigned on a team right away. And reach out to your group members as soon as possible to kind of establish those cadence.

Anything for me Wendy on the group side?

WENDY MILLS: I agree. I agree, AK. I think reaching out to your teammates as soon as you can to set the cadence of how you’re going to meet, when you’re going to meet, how often you’re going to meet, and what is your basic communication tool.

Some other groups prefer to use Slack on GMU. You can do that. Others prefer to use Teams. You can do that as well. Or you can just do your old-fashioned, group text message.

One note that I learned about group text message is that not everyone is awake at the same time. We will text each other all the time. And if you don’t check your text messages, the next time you check there could be 50 text messages on that trail. So be open to different Opinions.

One thing that I’ve learned, like what AK said, is the diverse background brings us all together with the common goal of wanting to do well in your course. Our personalities may be different. Our approach of problem resolution may be different. But at the end of the day, you are all united in the same thing.

We all want to do well. We are all ready to get a good grade on this. That’s why you voluntarily signed yourself up for an MBA program. So be open to that.

But yeah, absolutely prepare. Set the cadence for your group work.

ABDUL KHANDKER: And I want to add another thing that Wendy mentioned. You are going to have conflicts in a group. It’s very normal to do that. In any sort of team environment you’re in, whether it’s in school or in work.

This is a great way to learn how to resolve conflict resolution. So when you’re in an actual team trying to finish a project, you can apply those skills and lessons learned from your MBA program as well. I had a lot of fun with that aspect. Definitely.

YANNIS BELLOS: But as you said, it is a lesson learned. Right?


YANNIS BELLOS: I guess part of the peer-learning angle.

ABDUL KHANDKER: Peer learning, yep.

YANNIS BELLOS: And my advice, I always– to be successful in an online program, especially asynchronous online program, you have to pace yourself.

You have to make sure that you chip away. In our courses are interactive, but they are designed so that each week, you have the opportunity to go through lots of content.

So ideally, you pace yourself. You chip away.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Perfect. So another question here for you, Professor. What are your scholarship opportunities for international students? And is there any specific discounts for individuals who work in foreign governments or embassy employees?

YANNIS BELLOS: I’m not aware of any discounts for our online MBA program. Regardless of visa status or origin of the application.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Well, let’s go here. I do have a couple other questions here for you guys. So let’s see.

So if a student’s GPA is below 3.0 what can they do to offset that and have a stronger application?

YANNIS BELLOS: We usually ask them to provide an explanation to give us their point of view about their GPA. If you think your GPA is not great, or it’s below a certain threshold, we ask them to explain why.

And want us to explain why– it’s not that we– I mean, when we evaluate applications, we evaluate applications holistically. We want to learn about you. We want to learn your story. What you aspire to do in 5, 10 years from now.

So that’s one way to go about, include that in your letters. And also, there will be opportunities for remedial work. You can take some online courses or certificates through LinkedIn Learning in order to show that.

So if you didn’t have a good grade on quantitative courses as an undergraduate, then one way to make up for this– do some online work that shows on focus on quantitative topics.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. And a question here for Wendy and AK. What was one of the struggles you faced transitioning to being an online MBA, and how did you overcome it?

WENDY MILLS: The biggest transition for me, personally, is I’m not a very patient person. So when I have a question, I have to post them either to my teammates or to my professor. And I have to wait for a response.

I suffer from instant gratification, so I always want my answers immediately and as soon as possible. If it is a minute later, it’s too late. So one thing that I’ve learned is to be really patient and ask your question.

And also, humbly, I would admit that my peers have been the best support system that I have, on top of my student advisors who have been key in helping me chart my growth and what area of interest I have.

My professors have been always available. So I would say my lack of patience is an issue. But I have great amount of support from the entire university.

ABDUL KHANDKER: Yeah I’ll say my struggles are really about coming back to school after a long time. I’m not going to give away my years of experience yet. But it was a long time since I’ve been in an academic situation.

So that transition and getting used to going back to school– so for those of you who are coming back to school after a long time– it is a certain level of discipline and type of discipline that you need to have to get through the program.

I’m going to echo Wendy. Despite these struggles, it was really much thanks to our peers– the friends that you make as you go through these group works. The professors, they’re all available, very helpful.

It is because of that that I was able to overcome those struggles and do very well in the courses so far. So many thanks, again, to the peers and professors for doing that.

WENDY MILLS: Yeah. If there’s one thing that I could tell people that you take away from this session is don’t let an online course frighten you or worry you in that you don’t have that support.

You actually do. As a matter of fact, I think you actually have more support than a traditional-concept class because your professors are always available.

And the means of communication these days are so high tech that you can easily reach anyone at any given point in time. Just allow some time for response.

And also your student advisors– your student success coach– are your ally. I have had so many chats, text message chats, emails, phone calls with my student success coach as I’m in my elective year now.

And I’m down to four courses before I graduate. So I have had to work very closely with my student success coach. And they’ve been so helpful in helping me chart what I want to do– what my interest is.

So don’t let the online concept make you feel like you are alone. You are definitely not alone.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All right. A question here for the professor. Besides the residency course, is there any other capstone course that is part of this program?

YANNIS BELLOS: Now we don’t have a capstone requirement of the program. Some courses may ask you or may encourage you to connect with companies or, let’s say, the management of IT course, put students in contact with CIOs.

But other than that, we do not have a capstone requirement.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Well that is all the questions I have here. So Wendy, AK, and Professor, would you like to say any last word before we go today?

ABDUL KHANDKER: I’d like to add another piece of recommendation. When I joined, my attitude towards going into the MBA program was that there’s a lot of awesome things to learn that I can apply to my current job.

And if I want to look for a different role, I can probably apply there. So as we’re going through the course, I would highly encourage– no matter how many years of experience, if you have two years experience or 30 years of experience– doesn’t matter.

Have those discussions. And of course, bring those to bear during those discussions. Don’t just talk about the text material. Bring in real-world events that are happening.

A lot of the professors in GMU, they do a good job of bringing in real-world events, like currently the Russia Ukraine invasion, the pandemic– how is that affecting business operations. How is it affecting how we do business across the world.

And then, in your job, if your company is struggling with a specific area, bring that to bear in those discussions. And it’s very valuable because what you’re going to find is that your peers are going to come up with some ideas that maybe your company, or your team, has not thought about.

And yeah, you’re getting that consultation for it from a large group. So I would kind of approach this program– don’t treat it as textbook answers, textbook discussion. Always bring in that real-life situation.

WENDY MILLS: For me, my advice as I reflect back on my MBA with Mason, I realized the change that I have accomplished or have experience is very dynamic in a sense that I go through all the courses. And I’ve learned so much. And I really never really took stock of the changes that I have experienced or the increase in knowledge.

But I recently had one of my senior vice presidents in my company– who I was on the field with– he made this comment. And we were talking about the challenges in supply chain that has impacted almost every manufacturer in the world.

And Professor Bellos, I hope to make you proud because I approach my conversation with the senior VP who can easily have me terminated for the wrong answer. I actually said that there is a bottleneck. And I actually drew the chart that you drew.

I drew it on a piece of paper for him. And he was stunned as I explained why the boats are docked out in the ocean and not being able to come in to dock to deliver the products.

And I thought about this. And I thought, man, Professor Bellos would be so proud of me that I actually drew the diagram. But in all seriousness, approach it with an open mind.

Mindset Is very important as you learn anything. And have a lot of patience and be forgiving with yourself. There are times when you are not going to really understand any concept from the get go you may need more help.

Ask for help. Have an open mind. Like what AK said, all of us come together from different diverse background experiences. Be open to learning from somebody no matter what their experience level is.

Everybody’s input from their own unique experiences is so important. And it gives you such a well-rounded learning experience.

And before you know it, you will really think back and reflect back and have that light bulb moment that I recently had while I actually learned a thing or two.

So I was very pleasantly surprised with the change that I personally have experienced.

YANNIS BELLOS: I am proud of you, Wendy. Thank you. Now, I don’t think I have much to add on what Wendy and AK mentioned.

I mean, there are so many options out there. There are so many degrees out there. There are many specialized Masters business or non-business degrees out there.

The MBA degree has been one of the most consistent, durable degrees, giving a solid ROI. And the objective is to give you a holistic understanding of business.

Holistic understanding of business and helps you start the transformation journey. And what Wendy and AK that they have described elements of this transformation– this transformation process happening. And I’m very, very glad to hear that.

So we are always here. We are always available to answer any questions offline. Send us a note. Email us. And you will be surprised by how fast, how responsive we are to questions.

ALEXANDER RODRIGUEZ: All righty. Well, thank you, everyone. Thank you, Professor Yannis, and Wendy, and AK for joining us today and everyone else who’s joining today from your virtual, online home.

But if you are interested in applying please reach out to your admissions representative. We will help you out throughout the entire application process. And if you have any other questions, just feel free to let us know.

Other than that, good afternoon– I mean, goodbye, everyone. Have a wonderful day. And I hope you guys have an amazing week.


ABDUL KHANDKER: Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Goodbye.

WENDY MILLS: Thanks. Bye.

MS in Data Analytics Engineering Transcript

SPEAKER: All righty. Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our virtual open house for online Master’s of Science of Data Analytics Engineering Program. We’re very excited to get started, but let’s just wait a few moments for everyone to log on in and get situated. While we’re waiting, if you all would not mind just practicing with that chat box feature. Just let me know if you’re able to hear me clearly by typing your first name and where you’re joining from. And then we’ll get started around 7:02 as everyone starts to trickle in.

All right. Thank you for that. Looks like everything’s working in order. Welcome, [INAUDIBLE] Julia. Thank you for joining us, everybody.

All righty, it is 7:02. So thank you, everyone, for joining us this evening. We are excited to get started. My name is Mariah, and I am an admissions representative here for the program. I’m just here as a resource to give information, answer questions, and walk you through the admission and application process if it is something you decide to move forward with.

A quick overview of just of what we’re going to be doing this evening, we are joined by our program assistant director, Bernard Schmidt, and the program advisor, Mary Baldwin. They will tell us a little bit about themselves and their role, touch a bit more on the program and career outcomes, and what the online format consists of.

As I said, there is the Questions box that you should see on your screen. So feel free to ask questions during the duration of the open house, and we will address them towards the end.

All right. Let’s go ahead and get started by hearing a little bit more from our assistant director, Professor Schmidt. Please share a little bit about yourself.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: All right, thank you. Good evening, everyone. Glad you could make it to this virtual open house for the Data Analytics Engineering Online Program. I’m Professor Schmidt, as was stated. And I’m the Assistant Director of the Data Analytics Engineering Degree Program. What you see on the screen there is just a quick overview of my academics background.

And as you can see, I’m actually a graduate of this program. I started in the fall of 2013 when it was just a certificate program, and eventually I graduated in the spring of 2017 from the program. I hadn’t intended to become the assistant director. I was actually a professor of information technology at Northern Virginia Community College. This was my fun degree that I took just for the heck of it. But an opportunity came up and I’ve been with George Mason and the assistant director since the fall of 2020.

So that’s pretty much– aside from that, by the way I’ve been an academic for about 11 years now– 12 years coming on now, actually. And before that I was in industry for over 30 years. So I have both practical industry experience working my way through the IT industry as well as academia. So I’ve got both sides of the coin there. So why don’t we go ahead and next slide and let Mary introduce herself.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Hey, everybody. So I’m Mary Baldwin-Slupe. I am the graduate program advisor for the Data Analytics Program. So questions about academics, not knowing how to get access to resources, I am a person that you can reach out to and I will get you help. I have worked for the Data Analytics Program since last August, but I’ve been working in higher ed for the better part of a decade.

My background is in professional and technical writing, specifically professional and technical writing in STEM or interdisciplinary fields. And I later went into linguistics. So if any of you are interested in NLP, I’m always happy for a chat, because that’s my topic that I’m interested in. And I have been a tutor, a TA, an advisor. And I’ve worked in a number of fields with proposal work as well. So working with actual scientists in the field and getting them funding for their work. So that’s basically it. I think, Professor Schmidt, your part comes next talking about the program.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Thank you, Mary. If you can go ahead in the next slide, please. All right, thank you. So I love to throw this slide up here because it gives an overview of a good way in which students should think about what they’re going to be doing with a data analytics engineering degree.

Now where this comes from, the concept of value chain was introduced– or describe a series of activities that create and build value. Now this slide is taken from a IEEE Computer Society article written in 2013 by H. Gilbert Miller and Peter Mork. H. Gilbert Miller is a late chief technology officer of Noblis Corporation. And I had the privilege of actually meeting him and working with him at the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

And so he introduced me to this value chain for big data, and it really very well establishes, when we look at data science and data analytics and engineering, the broad spectrum of the value chain where you start at the very– on the left-hand side of this image, if you look at where– it’s got basically three areas. You’ve got data discovery, data integration, and data exploitation.

And it shows you how starting at the very lowest level where you start with collecting and annotating the data, and then moving on to preparing it– preparing the data, because much data– much of the data these days is unstructured data. It may be even data that’s not something we normally think of as data, such as video files or documents and things like that.

And so once you’ve collected and annotated it and prepared it, then you might want to organize it. So for example, you might want to perform in what’s known as an ETL process, Extract, Transform, and Load. And that’s what a lot of the upfront work where you’re going to do in the data analytics and data science field, is data preparation. Getting the data into a form we can actually go ahead and analyze it.

So once we’ve done that aspect of it, then we move into data integration where we basically establish common framework for the data and we maintain the providence. Providence is a very important concept in data analytics engineering. It focuses on where is the source of the data and how well can you trust that data?

In fact, there’s a concept called for four V’s where we talk about the volume, the velocity, and the– trying to remember myself all these V’s here. Veracity. And so where you have to just not take data at face value, but you have to take into consideration, is it streaming data? Is it structured? Is it unstructured? Can you trust the data? What’s the source of the data? What’s the provenance?

So it’s those sort of things that help determine whether or not you’re able to actually do any good– well, any good analysis on the data. So once you’ve gotten to that point, then we actually now start doing the data exploitation. So data engineering encompasses all this stuff, but if you’re thinking about, for example, data science, data science focuses pretty much on the make decisions aspect. It’s a higher end where a data scientist might be involved in, for example, building a machine learning model.

Data analytics engineering is more focused on the day-to-day aspects, but it does incorporate some aspects of that as well. For example, data analytics engineering also deals with basic statistics and predictive and descriptive modeling. So all those sorts of things are encompassed under the data exploitation.

I don’t want to also downplay visualization, because computers are really great at processing reams and reams of data. In fact, they’re really good at finding patterns in data that we as humans would find very difficult. It’s kind of ironic. We as humans are very good at finding patterns in visual data. Computers, not so much, but computers work the opposite. Computers do very well in finding patterns in large volumes of numeric and character-based data versus humans, which don’t necessarily do that.

Then once you’ve gotten that data and you’ve got that analysis, then it’s very, very important that you initialize it to get your story across. And so for example, in our program, we focus on visualization in several of our courses, particularly in our Statistics 515 course where you basically apply statistical processes and get to data and generate visualizations as a result.

Finally, at the end of the day, once you’ve done all that, you want to be able to do something with that data, and that’s where the make decisions comes in. So once you’ve got your analysis, then you’ve got to actually act upon that data and that basically finalizes this whole value chain that we’ve followed in our data analytics engineering program. Next slide, please.

This is another slide that it’s probably not very well– doesn’t really convey it as much as it should. But on the right-hand graphic, what we want to start out with– this is kind of like a building block approach where we talk about dealing with the large volumes of data. Here, we’re talking– you typically think about these days how a hard drive on your system is a terabyte system. Well, 20 years ago, that was unthinkable to have a hard drive on your system that was terabytes.

But now in the age of big data, we don’t think anything about terabyte hard drives. And now we start looking about the types of data that are available through, for example, Amazon Web Services or Google or Facebook or Twitter where they are generating just zettabytes of data. Not just terabytes, but they’re generating petabytes, exabytes, and oftentimes zettabytes of data on a daily basis not just yearly.

So now you have to– with all those volumes of data, you have to now have new sorts of storage architectures and archives and sources and dealing with real-time data. For example, I’m sure a lot of you have Twitter accounts. And so a Twitter feed is an example of a streaming live feed.

Facebook, the same as that. You can have a streaming live feed for that. You can have Instagram. And all those sorts of online social networking sites that people have, those are typically streaming services. And so how do we handle data that are coming from them as opposed to, for example, your traditional relational database system which is full of structured data and probably doesn’t have the volume of data that you see here in livestreaming services?

And then how do you go in search and discover all that data? Indexing is very difficult. Google, of course, if you remember the early days of Google, didn’t do a very good job of searching for data. In fact, before that, you had places like Yahoo– you had search engines like Yahoo. And early on, Yahoo would actually have people go through and find websites and then they would go ahead and categorize them and that’s how they did their searches.

But of course, when the volume of data got too big, that became impossible to do. And so the guys over at Google, they developed their search algorithm, and over the last, oh, 20 years or so, they’ve gone ahead and improved it to the point where when you do a Google search and if you put in the search terms properly, you typically land on the page you want within just– usually within the first click– after you’ve scrolled through all the ads they placed in front of you– within the first two pages, which is actually pretty good when you consider the volumes of data out there.

But then– so once we find all that data, then you get to that orange line there and that starts where we start– that corresponds on the previous slide to the orange portion of the data value chain where we now once we’ve identified the data, we’ve sourced the data, we’ve gone ahead and we’ve verified the veracity of the data, now we have to start conditioning it. We have to start tagging it, apply security to it. And so that is the framework of a lot of the basics that you learn within this program.

And so that’s like the– just the day-to-day nitty-gritty of being able to actually perform analytics on your data. Now the diagram on the left-hand side, it’s just is kind of a– it talks about the various things that you can encompass or find when you actually are working with the data. For example, bias.

Bias is a very big problem these days. And it’s not just in the algorithms, it’s also in the data itself. For example, when you have a machine learning model that is training itself on images, well, if your image is– if your database of images is based on Caucasians and completely ignores people from other countries and other ethnicities, well, it’s going to do a very poor job of trying to be able to identify individuals from those other ethnicities.

And so there’s a built-in bias into the data that needs to be corrected by getting more curated data in that case. Same thing with algorithms. We can develop an algorithm and inadvertently apply bias to our results as a result of that particular algorithm. So those are the sorts of things that we have to think about and deal with when we’re dealing with algorithms and data.

Transparency and explainability. Once again, machine learning models are like a black box these days, especially when we talk about deep learning. So for example, you have a training data set of images. And so what happens is then when you start– you build a model on that, and then you start trying to do predictions based on that model.

Well, in traditional deep learning models, because it’s based on a neural net, there isn’t really any transparency there, and so there isn’t any real explainability as to how your model determines whether something is a hot dog or it’s not a hot dog. And that’s a veiled reference to an HBO show that was– Silicon Valley, which had a very famous episode about that.

But in this case here, there are– research is going on today to be able to do this not– in a production environment. Because for example– here’s another good example. If you’re in the finance industry and you’re using a deep learning model to determine whether somebody is eligible for a loan or not, and then you reject that individual and you’re using a machine learning model for that.

Well if you don’t have transparency and explainability built in to that where if somebody protests that, how are you going to explain that? You can’t just go with a black box and say, well, that’s just what the machine learning model said. That doesn’t work. So in the machine learning space, deep learning space, transparency and explainability is a hot research topic.

And then we talk about models. We generate training models for, once again, machine learning. So how complex are they going to be? Are we going to be used using only a few features to build our model or we’re going to be using hundreds of features? The more complex your, model the more data– well, the more processing-intensive it becomes.

So now you’re looking at– instead of being able to train a model in just a couple of hours, maybe you might looking at be training a model for days or weeks on end. So you have to look at the complexity of models, because that will oftentimes determine how long it will actually take for you to actually build these training data sets that you use in machine learning.

Optimization for models, that’s important as well. If you are, once again, building a machine learning or deep learning model where you need to get a response within seconds, well– or fractions of a second, you have to make sure that that model is optimized to be able to do that. It’s one thing to do it in a research environment where you can afford to wait a couple of minutes to get a response back, but when you’re trying to do these in a real-world, real-time situation, timeliness of responsiveness is very important. And so you have to be able to optimize those models.

And that kind of goes along with the performance. When we think about machine learning models, are you going to be– can you basically run those models on a generic central processing unit or CPU? Or does it require the horsepower of a specialized processor like a graphics processing unit or GPU?

Well, to run a GPU– a model on a GPU on, for example, Amazon Web Services is going to be much more expensive than on a generalized CPU model. So that’s another thing– or a system. So that’s another aspect we have to think about as we’re building these models on the system, is what do you do when you actually go from a proof of concept into a real-world application?

These are the sorts of things– transparency, complexity, optimization, and performance, these are all the sorts of things you have to keep in your back of your mind, and that’s why data analytics engineers are so valued these days. Because these are the guys– these are the guys and gals, these are the people that are actually thinking about this and making sure that we can take these wonderful algorithms and processes and run them in the real world in real-time.

And then the last thing, once again, we’re touching in on visualizations. It’s the visualizations we can generate from our analysis that gives people insights into how to then act upon that analysis. Nowadays, what’s very big is for dashboards. So you might have an executive in an organized who will look at a daily dashboard to see– measure various aspects of how their organization is running.

And so being able to have the proper visualization and trust that you’re representing that data correctly is a very important aspect of data analytics engineering. And so we have courses that also cover that in the program as well. Next slide, please.

So when we look at the data analytics engineering program, how does it fit within George Mason University and the surrounding areas? So within George Mason University, we are– the data analytics engineering program is actually within the Volgenau School of Engineering, which is underneath the College of Engineering and Computing.

College of Engineering and Computing consists of two schools, the Volgenau School of Engineering and the School of Computing. That’s where Computer Science, Statistics, and Information Sciences and Technology resides. And then the engineering disciplines reside within the Volgenau School of Engineering.

Now we are multidisciplinary. We’re a multidisciplinary program, we’re not an academic department. That’s a distinction I want to make with you folks. Because it’s the strength of the– it’s one of the greatest strengths of the program, is that it is a program. When you’re in an academic unit and you have a degree within an academic department, you’re only going to be able to take courses within that academic department for that degree, whatever degree they’re offering.

So you have to– especially at the graduate level. Undergraduate not so much, but at the graduate level, that’s pretty much what happens there. So if you’re OK with a particular– all the coursework that’s being offered in a particular academic department, then take that. But the data analytics engineering program was intended to be multidisciplinary, which meant– which means we take courses across multiple disciplines.

So for example, our four core courses are derived from the Information Sciences and Technology Academic Department, the Statistics Academic Department, the Computer Science Academic Department, and the Systems Engineering and Operations Research Academic Department. And so you’re getting a broad spectrum of knowledge not just from one academic department, but across multiple professors from multiple academic departments.

And that’s true of the elective courses as well. Now in all fairness, the online program doesn’t have all the courses that are available in our on-ground, program and that’s simply due to the difficulty in being able to convert an on-ground force into a seven-and-a-half-week online course.

But we do have a fair sampling across multiple academic departments. We have online courses from the Information Science and Technology Department, Statistics, Systems Engineering and Operations Research, and Computer Forensics. Now you probably are wondering why computer forensics, and that’s– believe it or not, computer forensics these days is a hotbed of activity for data analytics.

A good example is in terms of, for example, when companies are trying to look for intrusion detection in their systems. Now there are hardware products out there that do monitor for intrusion detection, but in reality, hackers and bad actors are doing a very good job of hiding their presence when they are inside a corporate network or government network.

And so it’s only through the analysis of various network logs that are produced by networking equipment or weblogs that are produced by web servers that when you start applying machine learning models to those data logs, that you’re able to then detect the presence of bad actors and intrusion into your systems. It’s a fascinating area, and so we’re really proud to be able to start offering some of those courses in the online program, especially in the Washington, DC region where cybersecurity is such a big area right now.

So that’s how we fit into within the colleges and schools themselves. But then we also have industry partners and sponsors. So for example, our capstone course, DAEN 690. Students in that course are required to do a project that’s provided– that is provided to us by a industry partner. Actually, industry, government, and academic partner. So it’s a real world data analytics engineering problem.

And so when you work on those you’re basically getting real world experience in what it’s like to work out there in the real world with an actual project. This is not one of the curated projects that you might get in one of your courses. This is where students actually have to do quite a bit of research into other solutions that might have been done in this problem space, they might have to spend a lot of time researching the particular area that this is from.

Because you’ve got to remember, data analytics engineering program is providing you a toolkit, your own personal toolkit that can be applied across many subject matter areas. In fact, it’s kind of interesting the variety of areas. For example, currently we are working with the Federal Aviation Administration analyzing a lot of their data. We analyze data from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department on their performance of their emergency management services.

Coming this summer, we’re going to have a new partner, Perlman Sellers Winery. Now that’s going to be a real fine and real interesting project partner to work with, because now we’re going into a winery space. They’re a local winery here in Northern Virginia. They’re the most– one of the most popular. And it’s interesting the sorts of things that they collect data on that we can actually perform analysis to help with, so we’re really excited to be working with them.

I just had a meeting today with another potential partner that is focused on analyzing the security of mobile applications. And some of the stories he was telling us about the things they found about the security flaws that are in a lot of mobile applications these days, particularly in Android.

I’ll just give you one example. He gave the example of a mobile app that’s used to unlock the doors in your house. And this company is basically saying they’re based out of the Midwest, and they say that the data never leaves the United States, yet when they did a security analysis on the application, they found that this application only talked to servers in China.

Now that’s an interesting– maybe there’s a perfectly honest explanation for why that is. Maybe they’re using a service in China that that’s based in China just like somebody using Amazon Web Services may be using a data center anywhere around the world. But honestly, to be honest with you, that kind of doesn’t pass my smell test. I certainly hope it doesn’t pass your smell test.

So those are the sorts of things that data analytics can draw out, and that’s just– those are the sorts of projects that we can work with for our capstone. We also work with other Mason colleges’ data science programs. Over in the School of Science, they actually have a data science program. Over in the College of Health and Human Policy, they actually have their own analytics problem. And so we– problem areas.

And so we can interact with them. For example, we use some of the courses in the School of Business, School of– College of Health and Human Policy, so we’ve got that.

And then there’s external data science and analytics university programs and such. So for example, we are part of a consortium that represents all the data science and data engineering programs in Northern Virginia. And so we routinely meet once a year with universities like the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Washington, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University. So those are other universities within this greater Washington, DC region that we interact with as well from that standpoint.

So that’s all I’ve got on this particular slide here. And I see there’s a bunch of questions in the chat room. I’ll go back to them once we’re done with the lecture, so next slide, please. OK.

So what does the Data Analytics Program encompass? Well, it’s basically we provide you that understanding of the various technologies and methodologies you need to do that data decision-making, data-driven decision-making. If you look at that data value chain, that is the process you have to go through to be able to get to that point where you can make decisions off of your data.

So when we look at the curriculum, what are the various things we encompass? Well, there’s data mining. For example, CS 504 course covers data mining. Information technology, statistical modeling. We get those out of our stats and IST courses. Then you get predictive analytics, you get that out of systems engineering as well as with statistics. Risk analysis, data visualization. So those are covered in the various courses you can take in the program.

And as far as what sort of job you can get potentially after the fact, data scientist, data analyst, business analyst, database specialist, quantitative analyst, and data engineer, those are all the types of job titles that you’re seeing these days when you go out to the job boards. And those are very big.

Now in all fairness in the Washington, DC region, you’ll find that most of the jobs are geared for US citizens given the nearness of the federal government. But if you start looking elsewhere in the country, and a lot of folks are looking at us– I noticed that when I saw the list of folks from where they were coming from, they are outside the greater DC region. And so there are lots of other jobs that are– you can get in other areas of the region– excuse me, other areas of the country once you have graduated from this program.

Now I did already mention the capstone project. So every student has to take that course. But you can also– there’s DAEN 698, which is an independent research project, which– if you find that none of the course offerings, elective course offerings we give you just doesn’t satisfy your need, a student can propose a independent research project for a semester. You can only do that one semester. But that also has to be approved by the director of the Data Analytics Program.

So it does require some forethought from the student to be able to provide a well-thought-out proposal for the research that they’re going to be conducting. So all right. So that’s it for what I’ve got for slides. Let’s see. Do we want to tackle some of the questions there or do we want to move on to Mary’s piece? Mariah, what do you suggest?

SPEAKER: I said that we can do it at the end, tackle the questions and then circle back to the questions after Mary’s done.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: All right. So why don’t we go do that. So I’ll turn this over to Mary now and she can tell you the rest of it.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Yeah. Actually, I did want to just add on to that discussion about the independent research if you don’t mind, Professor Schmidt.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Oh, absolutely.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: It’s also another good option that I sometimes recommend to students who think that in the future they may be interested in a PhD. We’re generally a very industry-focused program, but there are some of our students who go on to PhDs, and an independent research class like DAEN 698 can help you there, but just wanted to throw that out.

Right now we’re going to be going into admission requirements for the program. So there are a few things that we do look for in students who are applying to the program. We require one college course in calculus and one course in statistics. And we do expect knowledge of a modern programming language.

Now that doesn’t have to be from a formal college course, but it can come from that. If you do a Coursera course, if you have work experience– basically we want you to know how modern programming languages work. We primarily in our program use Python and R, but if you have knowledge of C++ or something similar, that is also good.

We also look at your undergraduate achievement. So we generally expect a 3.0 or greater GPA, though we will accept a GPA addendum essay if you do have a GPA that’s slightly lower than a 3.0. And more generally, we’re looking at the grades that you got in your core classes that are going to be relevant to your graduate program. So your mathematics, your statistics, your computer science courses.

We also in your application package expect a resume. Going over your work experience, that’s a great place to put any certifications you might have. If you don’t have courses on programming and you have certifications or work experience, you can put it in your resume. We expect two letters of recommendation. We typically do say that previous professors are good, but if you’re currently working and you’re doing work similar to data analytics engineering work, you can definitely have a supervisor recommendation as well.

Every student has to submit a statement of purpose. I always tell students not to stress out too much about this. We want to know what your goals are. Like I said, we’re an industry-focused program, and so we want to know what you want to learn, how you’re going to utilize that, and what your long-term goals are.

And I usually tell students not to write more than two pages for that statement. Keep it succinct. Additionally, when you are doing your application, it is all going to be done online, your documents are going to be uploaded online. And there is a $75 application fee, but our program is not expecting a GRE or GMAT score at all. So I think we can go to the next slide.

Now this is an overview of our entire program. Now as an advisor, I will say that we’re going to go over this altogether, but of course, having questions about a full 30-credit program is going to come up, you’re going to have questions. But to break it down, our program consists of five core courses that everyone takes and then five electives that you can pick based on your interest and your goals.

So the five core courses that you have for the program are AIT 580, which is Analytics, Big Data to Information; CS 504, which is Principles of Data Management and Mining; OR 531, Analytics and Decision Analysis; and then the class that Professor Schmidt mentioned earlier, which is a great visualization course, which is Statistics 515.

And just in those first four classes that I mentioned, you can see, you’re getting classwork from all these different disciplines, and that is really the strength of our program. The final core course is the capstone project that Professor Schmidt mentioned. And we also, you will notice, have DAEN 500 listed on here.

Now this is not a course that counts towards the 30 credits for the program, but it is a course that we offer for students who may not have as much programming experience and might need more of a fundamentals course. And it really is sort of a bootcamp or a bridge course that can help students who are almost ready to start the program, but might need a little bit more preparation to get into the program.

Then we have 15 elective credits. So five elective courses. And you can see here a whole bunch of different topics that you could possibly study. And I will say, this is less than is available on-ground program, but these are some of the most popular courses that our students take. So the Digital Forensics.

We just added the new one, Network Forensics, which I’m really excited about. Our Predictive Analytics and Decision-Making courses. And of course, all the AIT classes which give you those tool sets for knowledge mining and big data. So you have lots of options to specialize in those five elective classes that you’ll be taking in the program. So I think we can go to the next slide.

Now these are a few examples of plans of study. And it will kind of depend on if you’re a fall start, if you’re a spring start. And you will notice here that for any given semester, we never have students taking more than two classes. The program online because it is intensive seven-and-a-half-week courses, we want to make sure our students are set up for success. We never want you taking on more than you can digest and do well in.

And so students take a maximum of one course per session. They can take one in the first half of the semester and one in the second half. And you will notice that laid out here for our first year. Essentially you do two core foundation courses in your first semester, two core foundation courses in your second.

And then over the summer, if you take summer courses, you’d be able to take one elective, and then in the following year, you would finish up electives and finish the whole program out with one course in your final semester, which is our only course that is more than seven and a half weeks. Our capstone experience is an expansive one, it’s one that we can’t really shrink down, so we have kept that one full semester long.

The other thing I do want to mention here functionally, if you are getting financial aid, I have an important thing to point out here. Online students only qualify for financial aid through the university if they’re taking at least two classes at a time. And you will notice here in the summer, you could only take a maximum of one course, so students who take that course would not be eligible for financial aid in that semester.

And similarly, the capstone, because it can only be taken by itself, you can’t have multiple classes going on in the same session, that would be a similar situation. So it’s important to be aware of when you’re planning out your semesters. We can go to the next slide.

And this is just another example. So this is for spring start. Again, showing how your core courses and elective courses would be distributed over spring, summer, and fall semesters. And you’ll notice this one wraps around to year 3 just because of the timing of a spring starts. We can go to the next slide.

And again, similarly, this has a summer start. So our online program is unique in that we allow students to start in the summer. And I think it gives students a great option to start out just with one course and get familiar with our program. And again, it has a similar flow to a spring start because you do end in year 3, but in a summer semester. We can go to the next slide.

So one of the reasons why I think this online program is so important, because I’ve worked with students, like I said, a decade in a number of universities and a number of programs, work with our on-ground students and our online students. And it’s just flexible. Our student body is really diverse.

We have a lot of people who are transitioning from one career to another, who might be brand new out of their undergrad, or they might be working data science– data engineers right now and they just need to get their credentials. Get those skills that they might have missed when they were learning on the job.

And so this asynchronous online program is super flexible. And it allows students to study at a different pace. And like I said, that seven-and-a-half-week format is something that makes it quite unique with the exception of the capstone, which is longer. All right.

SPEAKER: All right, everyone. Before we get into the Q&A portion, again, if you guys have any additional questions regarding the next steps as far as start dates, application materials, deadlines, anything like that, just please reach out to your admissions representative. If you don’t know who your advisor is, that is our main line phone number on this slide.

And so just jot that down and give us a call, we’d be happy to assist you in any way. So at this point, I’d like to really take advantage of the time that we have left here with our panelists and address any questions specific to the program. So I’m going to start off with the questions that were listed in the chat. Gotta scroll up.

So I see first question from Julian saying, how much of a programming or coding background is required for the program? Is there a portion of the program that covers modeling and programming language or cloud applications like AWS?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: OK, I’ll go ahead and answer that. So you don’t have to be expert coders, but you do have to have some experience in coding. Now when you’re dealing with data analysis, the two primary programming languages you’re going to use our Python and R. And we don’t have– now if you are a provisional student and you’re assigned to take DAEN 500, we do offer some training in those two programming languages in that course.

But normally, students that are admitted directly into the program, they’re either expected to already have some programming language or, for example, they would pick it up on their own while they’re in the program. For example, when I joined the program, I didn’t know what R was. And so I took– by that time, I had, of course, had 30 years of industry experience, so for me, it was not that big a deal to pick up a programming language on a weekend.

I went to a weekend seminar at one of these Northern Virginia groups that meet up on a weekend, paid a $50 fee, and I learned about R in the course of a Saturday afternoon. Python, I had a course in semantic web analysis where I needed to use natural language processing libraries that were available through Python, and so I just in the course of a weekend, I taught myself how to do that.

But for me, that was easy to do because I’m experienced IT professional with a computer science background. Somebody who mainly doesn’t have that background, I see a comment there about Coursera. Getting background in taking some of those free Coursera courses, DataCamp courses. For example, I know what DataCamp, you can get some of their introductory courses for free.

If you have some programming background, taking those on your own time are certainly a good way to get experience in programming languages.

SPEAKER: Thank you for that, Professor Schmidt. Another question is, is there a particular or main software application this course uses to teach the data analytics foundations?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: No, there’s– in fact, that’s a good question, because there is no one right tool for anything, just like there’s no one right programming language. I mean, R and Python are the big programming languages today, but who knows what it’s going to be five, 10 years down the road.

It’s the same thing with tools. For example, there are tools for helping you with data preparation such as Trifacta and Alteryx. If you’re looking to do data visualizations, there’s Tableau. And then for data mining, we’ve used a tool called RapidMiner. Now, the nice thing about all those tools is that you can– students, you can sign up and get a free license for a period of time while you’re in the program so you don’t have to pay for it. And so those are great ways to learn that.

Amazon Web Services, you can sign up for your own account, you can sign up for an account with no cost. We actually do have– in some of our courses, we do offer students Amazon classroom accounts as well. But students on their own can sign up for– for example, Azure for Students. If you do a Google search on Azure for Students, you can get a– sign up for a Microsoft Azure account get a $300 credit every year. Amazon Web Services, similar. Google Cloud platform, similar.

So you’re not limited to one particular tool. In fact, we are tool-agnostic. We attempt to demonstrate across all these different platforms and different tools that students can use. It’s just– at the end of the day, it’s whichever you use as you find the most useful– ease of use yourself that produces the result you need.

SPEAKER: OK, perfect. And then there’s another question, based on the electives we choose, are the students going to be getting a certificate on that particular specialization? I also think this is a good opportunity to discuss the difference between the full data analytics master’s program and the certificate program as well.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: I can take that one, Professor Schmidt. So in the online program– so the short answer is no, you don’t get a certificate for a specialization. To clarify, what some students might see is that we do have specific concentrations in on-ground program– about 10 right now, so there’s a lot of them.

In the online program, there are no specific concentrations. Every student is doing an individualized concentration. So your degree will say Master’s in Data Analytics Engineering, there will not be a concentration listed because of that individualized path among those specific electives. So there’s no certificate or anything additional for that.

SPEAKER: OK, perfect. And I think you did briefly address this question regarding Coursera, if Coursera courses would suffice regarding meeting the program prerequisite of a candidate–

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah. And I can speak from personal experience. When I started taking AIT 580 in the fall of 2013, we started talking about R programming. That’s when I actually started with a seminar– a weekend seminar that I took in Northern Virginia. But then at the time, Coursera was offering their Johns Hopkins R course, and that’s made up of 10 different modules.

And basically I took the first five modules for that, and that was more than enough for me to be able to be prepared to be able to do the R programming that I later used in STAT 515. Now mind you that I also coupled that with– I’m a very avid reference book buyer. And so for example, when you were talking about R programming, you can’t divest yourself of using an IDE called RStudio from a company called RStudio. RStudio is one of those free IDEs that’s available to anybody. It’s a great development environment for R programming because it’s an interpreted programming language.

And a number of their staff, including their chief data scientist, Hadley Wickham, and one of their other chief folks, Garrett Grolemund, are prolific authors. And so you’ll find a lot of books on the subject– and in fact, a lot of their books they actually offer for free. If you go to their websites, they offer e-book versions for free. But I also like to have a physical book.

So I’ve got a vast library of books I’ve purchased that cover various topics. And so in addition to what I learned from those particular courses– and I just had books that I referenced– and by the way, you don’t have to buy the books. As a student at George Mason University, you have access to a service called O’Reilly Learning, which basically offers you access to e-book versions of a lot of the same books I have in my personal library.

And so for example, when you’re writing an R program and you want to tweak– and you’re creating a graph and you want to tweak the graph, there are several books out there that were written by the RStudio staff that Hadley Wickham and Garrett Grolemund that focus on– like for example, one of my favorite books was the R Code book which focused on how to tweak the visualizations. And I found that invaluable as I was doing my coursework in STAT 515. So I hope that answered that question.

SPEAKER: All righty. Thank you for that, Professor Schmidt. Next question is regarding whether core courses are intended to be taken directly or do some prerequisites outside– or do you have some prerequisites outside of the requirements of program admission?

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Core courses are– yeah. Core courses are meant to be taken directly. So I’m not sure– I glossed over the course planning a little bit, but you’re expected to do your first four core courses first before anything else. That’s AIT 580, STAT 515, OR 531. And then your five electives and then your capstone.

So you will go into those core courses without having to worry about any other prerequisites since– once you’ve gotten into the program, you can get into those. The issue of ordering is going to be more with electives. So if you’re interested in AIT 664, which is a really cool visualization course, you have to have AIT 524, which is a more introductory course first. And that’s what you are a success coach helps you with each semester, planning those elective choices once or to that point. I hope that answers the question.

SPEAKER: I think it does. Thank you, Mary. I think this next one might be for you as well. The student is wanting to know would it be possible for someone to take the online master’s program to qualify or attend an in-person elective if they were available to be on-campus for that semester?

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: That is a really great question. Unfortunately not. There’s a different student status for students in the online program and in the in-person program, and there are things like vaccination requirements and all kinds of stuff to be able to attend classes on campus. It is possible to make a change once if you needed to move from one campus to the other. So fully online to on-campus or on-campus to fully online, but that’s not something you’d be able to do for just a singular semester.

SPEAKER: Thank you for that. Next question is regarding the specific name of that bridge course or the– yeah.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: That’s DAEN 500, Data Analytics Fundamentals. That course is a seven-and-a-half-week course. The only course in the online program which is the full semester is DAEN 500. Every other course you take in the program is seven and a half weeks. And let me bring something up that wasn’t addressed, and that’s your time commitment in the online program.

When you’re in a normal on-campus situation, you’re taking a 15-week semester course. The general rule of thumb for the amount of time you have to spend outside the classroom every week is basically three hours minimum for every credit of the course. So if you have a three-credit course, you’re expected to spend about nine to 10 hours outside the classroom in that course– for that course outside the classroom studying.

Now that may be independent research, that may be you spending time learning about a particular library that you’re going to use when you’re writing a program, things like that. You might have to do some background research. But that’s the general rule of thumb. And so over a 15-week semester, that’s not a bad thing.

But you’ve got to remember, a seven-and-a-half-week course is the same amount of material as a 15-week course. It’s only compressed down to seven and a half weeks. So that means now that you’re going to have to dedicate 20 hours a week– that’s why we only allow you one course per session, because it requires you to dedicate 20 hours a week on that one course for that seven and a half weeks.

And I don’t think students really get a handle– really believe that, because one of the biggest problems I get in the– for example, in the 500 course that I teach is I get a lot of people that are working. The online program is very conducive to folks that have work during the day. And so they may be putting in 40, 50, 60 hours in their day course. But then they turn around and now they’ve got to put in another 20 hours– and by the way, that’s minimum– into the course.

So for example, when we do the R portion– excuse me, the Python portion of that course, you’re given two weeks to work on it out of seven and a half weeks. And students are hard-pressed to stay current with all the material they need within that 20 weeks. And if your weak in programming or it takes you a little more longer time to understand how to do that, you might spend more than 20 weeks.

And that could be when you’ve got a family obligations you’re dealing with plus work obligations, you really have to time your well– you have to manage your time well, and you really do have to make that commitment, which means you come home from work, you have dinner, you play with your kids, and then you’re going to have to budget two to three hours each night during the weeknights so that you’re not slammed on the weekends trying to catch up on all the work you should have done during the week.

In fact, some courses– not necessarily my course in 500, but other courses may have deliverables that are sometime during the week. And so you have to be prepared to be able to not hold off and wait until the weekend to do your work. You really have to manage your time and do work every night towards your degree. So that’s something also you need to keep in your mind about that.

SPEAKER: Thank you, Professor Schmidt. And then next question is regarding really the difference between doing a business analytics and data analytics engineering program. I’m not sure how well you’ll be able to answer this one.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: I can answer that fairly easily. Business analytics is typically you find those sorts of programs in the School of Business. In fact, George Mason has a business– we do offer courses from the School of Business in our on-ground program that you could get a concentration in business analytics.

Now the School of Business has in turn, they’ve gone ahead and they finally got an approval to offer their own business analytics curriculum within the School of Business, but we still have– students in our on-ground program still have the ability to do that. The big difference is, business analytics is focused on business– just exactly what it says, analytics for business.

Data analytics engineering is focused on engineering aspects, which means if you’re– are you going to use AWS or Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud? If you’re going to use Amazon AWS, what sort of services are you going to provide? What kind of databases are you going to use? Are you going to use a SQL database or are you going to use a NoSQL database? Are you going to– all those sorts of things are the low level sorts of things. Are you streaming data from a data source? Are you going to have to do an extract, transform, and load?

So those are basically low-level engineering tasks that you have to focus on as you’re getting ready to prepare the data. It’s not just preparing the data. Typically a business analytics program is just focusing on analytics. They don’t worry about the nitty-gritty details. But then you’re limited to jobs that only offer that.

With a data analytics engineering program, you can take jobs both at the low end where it’s actually– and pure engineering as well as analytics jobs as well.

SPEAKER: That was actually a great, Professor Schmidt, because you provided a good transition for this next question of, what are some of the student job prospects after graduating from this program? And can you specifically speak to the roles they were able to enter based on the skills in the program?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Oh dear. Well, I do know that, for example, we work with a partner– maybe– Mary, was it Rajesh’s company that they went off to?

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: I think so. While you’re thinking, I can say data analysts, data engineers are needed in so many fields. We have students who go into many different sectors. We actually do send out surveys to graduating students or students who have graduated to get information about the jobs they’re doing, the titles they have.

I have students who come to me, they’re about to graduate, they have an offer in hand from Amazon as a data analyst or data engineer. We have students who work for financial organizations with lots of different job titles. Data analysts, data scientists. Those are– and Professor Schmidt [INAUDIBLE] say, those titles are sometimes used differently by different companies to be the same job. We even have some people who go into titles like software engineer where they’re still doing data engineering work.

So it’s varied. And it’s actually publicly available. If students want to reach out to after the program is over, after this is over to get a link to that site that has survey results on students who’ve got back to us with their current titles and workplaces, I can provide that.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah. To follow up with that question, Rajesh’s company is [INAUDIBLE] or something like that. I’m not sure I’m pronouncing it correctly. That’s a machine learning business. He hired several of our students. We had several students that went to a company called Asurion, which is focused on warranty maintenance for appliances, which you would think is kind of a weird thing.

I know we’ve got a student that went to work for Nestle USA in their marketing area. Trying to think where else I’ve seen students go to. The thing is that a lot of them, when they get jobs, they don’t necessarily write back to me to say, hey, Professor Schmidt, I got a job here. But as Mary said, we do place a lot of students locally.

International students might find it a little more difficult, but they tend to be in our on-ground program because then they have to look for– because of the US citizen requirement for a lot of government-based jobs and contractors. But there are other places around the country they can apply to for those.

But for locally, you can pretty much– any type of company. A lot of companies you wouldn’t even think about that they suddenly realize they’ve got lots of data and they want to start doing analytics with it and they’ll hire our students.

SPEAKER: Thank you so much for that, that was very helpful. Along those lines, can you all speak to how the program helps to obtain job opportunities or opportunities to network within the program?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Well, you want to do that, Mary, or–

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: I could start and you can add if you want. So our online students have access to our career advisor, Ann Gardner, who is our specialist. We have career fairs, even online events for careers as well. I mean, one of the big things that we do is we have our capstone experience where we have students working directly with clients, essentially, and giving– working with them throughout the semester and then giving presentations on their work.

So we have career advisors, we have career fairs, we have a special database of jobs and opportunities and internships that’s available only to students. So on my side as an advisor, those are the main things that I would focus on. Did you have anything else that you wanted to add, Professor Schmidt?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah. I just– so for example, like I said, we focus on making sure that students work with industry partners along with academic and government. And so when you do a really good job on that capstone course, you basically excel. We do have several partners that have on occasion gone out and hired folks.

So for example, I’m trying to remember off the top of my head– bear with me a second, sorry. Here we go, Accenture Federal Services. So I know for a fact that we’ve used– they’ve been a partner in our program for a number of years now. And when they’ve seen a particularly good student perform in the capstone course for one of those projects, they’ve gone ahead and they’ve reached out to them.

So potentially any one of our industry partners could be a potential hiring source, which is one of the reasons why we always encourage students to make sure they do their best efforts on that so that they can impress a potential employer down the road.

SPEAKER: Perfect. Thank you for that. Next question is along the lines of how useful the data analytics certificate would be, just earning that alone. And then if you can also touch on really the difference between the certificate and the program.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Would you like me to take that one, Professor Schmidt? Because I’m happy to.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah, go ahead. I can answer it from the perspective of somebody who’s actually been in the program.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Well, you do it. I think that that’s better, actually.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Well, yeah. I was an unusual case, because I was already employed as a full-time professor at Northern Virginia Community College. For me, this was just a fun program. And actually, I hadn’t actually intended to do it. As I mentioned, when I started in the fall of 2013, the program didn’t actually come in to– become reality until the fall of 2014, they just had the certificate.

And I was only going to just take the first course, AIT 580. But what I found was that I enjoyed it. It was different, it was fascinating to hear about the different things that were taking place with big data. And so after that, I just started taking a couple of the remaining courses for the certificate thinking I was just going to get the certificate.

A certificate is usually– in general, a certificate is generally intended for somebody who’s already working in the workplace and they want to demonstrate to their employer that they have a certain particular set of skills that might qualify them for another job within their business. So that’s typically how you view certificates. It’s not– a certificate isn’t necessarily one that will help get you a job, although it could.

Typically people who go for the certificates are folks that already have a job and they’re trying to show their employer they have an additional skill set. Now in my case, it wouldn’t it didn’t really matter for me except once I figured out– once I got past– taking the courses for a certificate– in fact, I never even applied for a certificate. By that time, I was so far into the program, I actually applied for the master’s degree.

But in my case, getting a second master’s actually was a benefit to me to get a promotion at Northern Virginia Community College. So for me, getting the entire degree was what triggered– helped me in my workplace. But getting a degree would actually prove to an employer that you’ve got additional skills beyond just the ones in their certificate program.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: I can actually speak to some of the experiences of recent students as well. So I’ve had several students who start with the certificate program. One of the great things about our certificate and master’s is that the four courses for the certificate are the first four core courses that we require of students in the master’s.

So you can get both. We have lots of students who will get the certificate and decide, just as Professor Schmidt did, hey, I want to do more. But in the meantime, you already have that credential. I’ve had a few students who were able to get their foot in the door at an entry-level job with the certificate, and then once they got the master’s, they were able to move on.

I had one student get back to me and say, the certificate gave me the skills to start my startup. So I found that it is a good credential to have. It gives you good based knowledge just by itself, those first four core courses. It’s easy to transition from the certificate to the master’s and it’s that gateway credential. And it can be super helpful in your current employment as Professor Schmidt said.

SPEAKER: Perfect, Mary and Professor Schmidt. Mary, can you also share a little bit more about what that process is, transitioning from the certificate to the master’s?

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Yeah. So transitioning from the certificate to the master’s, you basically have to put in a second application. And I usually suggest students do that as soon as they know they are going to want to dedicate themselves to the master’s degree. So some students do it a couple of different ways.

You can graduate with the certificate and then start with your master’s the following semester. We have some students who will apply to the master’s and then add the certificate as a secondary certificate and do both at the same time. It depends on what you want to do, how certain are that you want to do the master’s.

I honestly recommend, if you think you’re going to want to do the master’s, apply to the master’s, and then you can actually fill out just one form that gets approved to add the graduate certificate to your plan of study so that you get that before you’re finished with the master’s. The reason why I say that is to apply for the certificate. You only need one recommendation letter, whereas the master’s you need two. So even if you get accepted into the certificate, you have to apply again, get extra recommendations because it’s a higher-level degree.

if you get accepted into the master’s, it’s really no problem to add the certificate. So it’s just a little bit easier to do it that way, but honestly, I’ve had students do it in a number of different ways depending on their current status, where they are in the certificate once they are actually ready to transition. That’s the kind of conversation I suggest you have once you’re in the program– or before you apply to the program with an advisor so we can assess your particular situation and give you the best recommendation.

SPEAKER: Thank you so much for that, Mary. I believe we only have a few more questions left. Next question is regarding, what would the preparation– or what preparation should a student take before entering into the–

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Actually before that, there was one about independent research course?

SPEAKER: Yes, there was. Yes, of course. If you want to touch on that.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah, I’ll touch on that one. So you’ve got to remember, students don’t pick their– students don’t select– they don’t create their own projects in the capstone course. You have to select the capstone course from a catalog that I prepare every semester. Now if your research area happens to be– cover an aspect of one of the projects, then you could go ahead and select that particular project to work on for your capstone.

But the only way that you could do what you want to do is if that particular partner’s project is related to your independent research. You’re not allowed to pick your own– we no longer allow students in the capstone course to go pick their own projects from that perspective.

SPEAKER: OK, perfect. Yes, the next question. I believe you may have touched on this a little bit, Professor Schmidt, just regarding preparation before entering into the MS in Data Analytics Engineering Program, and then any course suggestion or hands-on tools.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Nothing really off the top of my head. There are so many free resources out there. We talked about the R and Python programming. That’s certainly one aspect of getting a little prepared to– if you feel a little weak on that, you can do these free resources out there.

I mentioned a couple of tools like RapidMiner, Alteryx, Trifecta, Tableau. Once you actually have an– and you have– mind you, you have to have a .edu email address. So once you’re actually a student, then I recommend student– then I recommend they go out there and look for these different tools out there and build up their data analytics and your toolkit.

Because like I said, there’s no one tool that solves all your needs, but getting familiar with them throughout the program, especially before the capstone, will help make your life so much easier so that, for example, if you’ve gone ahead and learned on your own, taking some of the free courses from Amazon on Amazon Web Services and knowing how to spin up a virtual machine or spin up a SageMaker machine learning instance through their free offerings, that’ll just give you a leg up when you actually need to actually use them within of course itself.

For example, I know for a fact Dr. Baldo in his CS 504 course, he created the online CS 504, he makes use of RapidMiner in that class. So that’s an example where if you knew about that ahead of time– we use RapidMiner in the DAEN 500 course as well. But honestly, I don’t have any particular recommendation other than at least foundationally, make sure you have a really good understanding of– and feel good about programming in R and Python.

SPEAKER: Perfect. And last couple of questions are just disregarding really the highest paying industries for which these type of jobs of data analytics engineering are.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Mary, I’ll leave that one to you.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: You mean highest paying? I think that it’s going to vary by the company that you’re working for. It’s going to vary by the kind of job that you’re doing within. I don’t know, Bernie. You’ve worked in industry.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: All right, I’ll take it, then.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Hey, you gotta help me here.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah. I can’t give you specific people– or specific companies, but like for example, my family is full of data scientists. My brother-in-law is just retired from SAS Institute. He was one of their chief data scientists for the last 20 years or so. And he was paid a very nice six-figure salary from what I gather.

My son-in-law, he works for a company called Databricks. Databricks was basically the commercial venture in which Spark was born from. Spark is an open source product. And so I know my son-in-law makes a fairly hefty six-figure salary. But that’s not him coming in for the first time. He’s been working this for years. So don’t expect a six-figure salary walking in the door. I would expect high– maybe 70s and 80s as an entry level. But as you gather more experience, you can see that salary jump to the mid–

And it’s also based on region. For example, I was reading the other day about somebody who is a data analytics person out in Silicon Valley and their salary was over $200,000 a year, but you gotta consider the cost of living out there, where houses are– crummy houses are a million dollars. So yeah. So it depends on region and the type of business that’s offered. You’ll find that the larger companies will tend to offer better salaries.

SPEAKER: OK, awesome. And our last two questions are regarding if a data analytics engineer MS should aim for data science careers or jobs.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: I think we touched on this a little bit earlier. The term data scientist and data engineer and data analyst are used kind interchangeably or confusingly in industry. So data engineers, you might be doing data engineering work with the title data scientist, but there is a distinction between data science and data engineering.

So what I would say, when you’re looking at jobs, look at the actual functions of the job, because that is going to tell you a lot more than the title. So yes, our students do get hired as data scientists, but it is very much a data engineering degree that we are offering. Do you have anything to add to that, Professor Schmidt?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah. You have to be careful about that. Companies throw about titles left and right. And you’re right, you’ve got to look at the job description to see if you can actually qualify for the job. Most data scientists, I mean pure data scientists, these are people who’ve got PhDs.

In fact, we actually have a data science program over in the College of Science. It’s Computational Sciences. And they have a PhD and it’s for data science. But that’s on a whole level– different level entirely. That’s where you’re like delving deep into the mathematics behind all the analysis.

A typical data– a good distinction is between– the difference between a computer scientist and a IT professional– or– so what is the difference between the two? Well, a computer scientist is more focused on the mathematics, the foundations of how things work, why do they work, the stuff that it takes to create, for example, a compiler.

If you’re going to write a language compiler, you would expect somebody with a computer science background who has all that foundational knowledge and deep understanding of the mathematics behind that to be able to do something like that, versus an IT degree, which is more applied.

And data analytics– you can think of the data scientist as more theoretical and data analytics engineering is the applied. We are all about applied engineering here. And that’s and that’s a big difference. And that’s and that’s and that’s really where the most of the jobs are, are in applied engineering.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: We do have a couple of students who have gone on to PhDs in data science, but again, it’s a very different path of study that they’re choosing to do. And takes more time. But I think that’s another one of the positives in my mind about our master’s, is it allows students to go directly into the workforce, it’s very industry-focused. But it does give you a base that if you do choose to do further graduate study in the future, you can.

SPEAKER: All right, thank you for making that distinction for our attendees. I had one more question come in while you guys are answering that one. So last question is just, for an international student, what are the job opportunities? And I know that you have touched on this a bit already, Dr. Baldwin– Professor Baldwin, I’m not sure if you have– sorry, Professor Schmidt. So if you have anything else to add.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Well, I’ll throw it over to Mary because we actually do have an organization within George Mason that is focused on that.

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: Yeah. So we actually have employment resources specifically for international students. I would say a lot of our students on-ground program are international, and so we get students placed all the time and jobs. The student I was talking about the other day he came to me with a job in hand from Amazon, he hasn’t even graduated yet and they want to hire him, is an international student.

So in our area of Northern Virginia, it is a little bit difficult for international students because of defense industry and government jobs requiring clearances and all sorts of things like that. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs. There are lots of jobs for international students in all the same industries as there are for domestic students. Just accepting some of those– the federal work or state work jobs that might require citizenship.

So I would say, international students have the same job opportunities, you might just have to look in different areas to make sure that you’re not hitting those jobs that require citizenship.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: And actually, another thing is you actually have to start the job search process much sooner. I mean, as soon as you start in the program, you need to start thinking about that, because international students are coming in on an F-1– or J-1 visa. And so those limit your opportunities. You can’t– for example, you can’t work normally on those visas unless you’re getting– wind up getting a job through the university from that perspective.

But then after you’ve graduated, international students on those visas can then do internships and jobs under a program called– was it ODT/OPT?

MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: You actually can do CPT–


MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: –while you’re a student. OPT is for after.


MARY BALDWIN-SLUPE: And most of our internships– most of our international students do work to get internships while they’re still students. And unlike a lot of fields, most of these are paid internships, which is not the same across the board for all different degrees. So I would say there are definitely opportunities. You just have to make sure that you’re utilizing the resources through our career services and widening your search.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah. And that’s why we say– that’s why the advice from the Office of Career Services is for international students to start thinking about this as soon as they get in the degree program, because like I said, you’re in the country with a student visa, but if you want to stay in the country and do work, now you’ve got to look for employers that are willing to sponsor an H-1B visa and maybe even a green card.

So that’s– so those are the– but those are long lead times sorts of things, and so you have to think about that if that’s your ultimate goal in the country– to stay in the country.

SPEAKER: Thank you so much for that. I don’t have any more questions from our attendees at this time. But if anything does come up, please send us an email or give us a call using the information on the slide. We’re available Monday through Friday until 8:00 PM most evenings. So thank you, attendees, Professor Schmidt, and Mary for your time tonight. I hope everyone has a good evening.


MS Applied Information Technology Transcript

JANESSA: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Welcome to our virtual open house for the online Master’s of Science in Applied Information Technology program here at Mason. We are very excited to get started in just a few moments. I want to give everyone some time to just get logged in and get situated. So while we’re waiting, if you guys wouldn’t mind, just go ahead and start practicing utilizing the chat box that’s in front of you.

Let me know that you’re able to hear me clearly. You can start by giving your first name, where you’re joining us from, and, since it’s lunchtime, say maybe what you are enjoying for your lunch. We’ll go– oh, excuse me. We’ll go ahead and get started around 12:05, as individuals continue to trickle in. So go ahead and let us know what you are eating, and where you’re joining us from, and we’ll get started in just a few moments.

OK. Perfect. I see some responses coming through. I’m glad you guys are able to hear me. We have some individuals from Virginia sipping on coffee for lunch. Definitely been there before, Lizette, definitely have been there.

All right, everyone. And today is St. Patrick’s Day. Is everyone wearing their green?

All right. Thanks, everyone, again, for joining us. Really, really appreciate it. As I said, I want to give everyone just a few moments. I know it’s during lunch time, so I to make sure that everyone’s able to get situated, as we are ready to move forward. But this is going to be our webinar for the Masters of Science in Health Informatics– I apologize, Masters of Science in Applied Information Technology program here at Mason.

We have some of our faculty joining us today. So really excited to get started. It looks like we still have just a few people. I’m going to go ahead and just start to take care of some housekeeping items as we’re moving forward. So, again, thank you, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. We are excited to get started.

My name is Janessa. I’m an admissions representative here for the program, here as a resource to give information, answer questions, and walk through the application process, if it’s something you decide to move forward with. I am joined this afternoon with our Program Director, Dr. Rytikova. And we will meet her in just a moment. But we are excited to have everyone here today to learn about the program. Again, before we jump into it, just a few housekeeping items that I want to take care of.

We were utilizing the chat function earlier. You should have that box on your screen, as well as a question-and-answer box. So feel free, during the duration of the open house, to ask questions utilizing either of them. I will keep an eye on both. But keep in mind, we will have some time planned at the end of our open house to address those questions specifically. So I’ll keep an eye on both of them. We may address them as they come up. But a lot of them will be saved towards the end of the presentation.

Please be mindful, also, who you are sending messages to. So you should have a little toggle option between just sending them to the panelists and the host, but also sending them to everyone. So just keep that in mind as you’re continuing to toggle between. But without further ado, let’s go ahead and get started by meeting some of our faculty.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Thank you very much for a wonderful introduction. Will you provide PowerPoint slides, or should I get them?

JANESSA: Are you able to see that PowerPoint now?


JANESSA: Oh. OK. Let’s see.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Thank you so much.

JANESSA: Yes. My apologies.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Very good. No, no, no, no. That’s fine. I just wasn’t sure who goes where. Well, good afternoon, everyone. It’s so exciting to have students in this, well, virtual room. I wish I could see everyone in person. And that’s what I really miss. We’ve been teaching online quite successfully due to– well, as you know, due to COVID. And we’re experts on online education, as I will talk about in just a moment.

But still, this is something that I really miss today. I don’t see students. I don’t hear them often. And though we try to create this engaging environment where students are open to raise their questions, and to turn on their mics and their cameras, but we still understand that this is not– in our days, it’s a bit challenging. We understand that. But still, that’s something that makes me very excited to be with students to answer questions.

If you want to interrupt me at any moment, please do so. As you will see in just a few seconds, I will get so excited about our program, because I am excited. I always get excited to talk about our achievements, about our amazing, incredible faculty, about courses we have to offer, that sometimes I get carried away. If it happens, please feel free to ask specific questions about the program or what you want to know about. It will help me slightly to guide this discussion even better.

We have one hour. But since I do a lot of education– a lot of research, and innovative teaching, and learning, it’s a well-known fact that if people listen for a long time, and in our days, I don’t know exactly what it is, whether it’s 20 minutes or two minutes, it depends.

But I don’t like giving long lectures. Still I have to– I’m kind of required to talk about our program, and I will do so. But if you want to ask questions, please do so, and feel free to interrupt me. I know that’s unusual, but it’s a bit difficult for me to both at the same time to answer questions and to continue my lecture. So if you have something to say, just say so. Raise your hand, and then I will stop the lecture, and I will answer your questions. Don’t wait for me until the very end.

All right. Well, what I always forget to do is to introduce myself. My name is Dr. Rytikova. I am the Associate Chair for graduate studies. And this is probably the reason why I’m giving this. And also Director for online MS AIT program. This is the reason why I’m giving this presentation. I’m also full-time professor in the department. And what I just realized when I received a little thank you note from the university, I realized that I’ve been here for over 15 years. And I pretty much know probably all the answers either students or faculty might have about our program.

I was one of the faculty who were involved when this program was just originally formed. It was about almost 10 years ago. Then about five years ago, I became the Associate Chair, and we modified the program quite significantly. Now, the program is more technical. It used to be more on the management, leadership, and technology side. Now, it’s a bit more technical, though we still provide pathways for students to get through the program, even if they don’t have a strong background in IT, or computer science, or any technical field. We have special courses to help out with that.

If we could move on to the next slide, please. Thank you. All right. Well– well, I know that’s probably too much. But still, as an indicator, and the person who is really passionate about our department, I wanted to mention that it’s not just an AIT program that we have to offer. We also offer a PhD program. We also offer certificates. And we also currently are offering a new M.S. program, M.S. in Information Systems, which we’ll start advertising quite widely next year or so.

But if anybody is interested in any extra courses, any extra program to pursue, then we have this to offer. The main program is M.S. AIT. We’ve been quite successful in attracting students to our program because the areas that we cover are probably the most interesting hot topics today on the IT market. Next slide, please.

If– it’s just, this is a very long slide to read through. We can review that. But the main idea is that our department created a Master’s– well, first of all, the department created this program because it was an urge from industry. We were approached by government agencies who asked, are you– are you capable or able to teach just a few classes? And back then, it was about cybersecurity, about big data, which was just the beginning of that era of data science that we see today.

And our department responded, yes, we have resources. We have faculty who conduct research in these fields. We’ll be happy to help. After a couple of courses, they asked about a more advanced level of courses. And we ended up with a series of courses for a certificate for the government agencies’ employees. And then, after that, they came back to us and said they were so excited about what we’ve done, but they were wondering if we can provide even the entire Master’s program.

We– it’s not just our department who put this program together, but we worked with academic leaders, academic leaders with industry leaders, to bring the best that exist on the market today in the area, and the field of IT, and, particularly, applied IT. Five years ago, the program was modified to make it even stronger. We enhanced the program. We added some interesting new concentrations, because, as you know, IT changes drastically.

We added a few concentrations in addition to the cybersecurity concentration that we already had. We also added a concentration, for instance, for human– computer-human interaction. We improved the IT management concentration. We came up with the data analytics intelligence concentration. And we keep growing. We keep adding concentrations as we speak.

Well, before I continue, I know that my focus should be very– my focus should be on the online program only, or online side of our program. But I wanted to mention that our department– the department is an expert in online education. I must say this because, in the past two years, like everyone else, we suddenly started teaching online. We started teaching online 10 years ago. Our department created– was the first department in the school– in the school and in the university, that developed the entire program online.

What I like about that story is, this is how the director for Online Education in our college puts it, Professor Garrison. He says that the IST department not only developed these programs online, but they established the best practices procedures that are now used by the entire university, which speaks very highly about our department. And I’m proud to say that, because we are experts in what we do online.

Currently, we’re offering two concentrations. It’s the cybersecurity concentration, and the data analytics intelligence methods concentration, online entirely. In addition to that, we’ll offer a new concentration in fall, that’s IT management. We also added a new concentration, the machine learning concentration, in fall for the on-ground program, which will be converted to an online program at some point, too.

What’s good about our program that we offer both, online courses and the entire MS AIT program can be completed online. We also offer this program on campus. If anybody at some point decides that they want to be– to work on campus, that’s possible, too. And we also offer a combination, it’s online and the on-ground program, but this is done through a different office. Today, I am only discussing the online offerings of our department. So we’ll focus on just what we have to offer online. Next slide, please.

What’s important about our program is that it is a great program. There is no questions about it. It’s not just because I say so, because I love our program so much. But, more importantly, because we’ve been ranked quite highly in many different variety of rankings in the last, I would say, three or four years. That was the time when we modified the program. And because of that, I believe we are moving forward towards higher rankings in many different types of rankings.

So the reason, I guess, why we are we’re ranked quite highly by both different agencies and by our students, is because, not only we provide a great curriculum. In addition to that, we are a very dynamic department, which means that we modify the curriculum as we go. I teaching just every day, literally every day. What we teach students today might not be very relevant maybe next year. But, still, even if it’s a new tool or a new idea, but what we do we build a great foundation for students who are interested in this great field of IT realm.

And if you decide to pursue any field, any area, later on related to IT, you will be prepared to do it so well. That’s why the program is quite– being ranked quite highly. In addition to that, we add new courses, as I mentioned, every semester. We are very lucky, because we actively hire new faculty. We are growing. We are– I don’t know if I’m complaining or bragging, but it’s good to grow. It’s good to have more students.

But in addition– but at the same time, we have to provide more classes. We have to schedule more sections, which, again, we’ll like. But because of that, we are also hiring new faculty, which is fantastic for any department, because they bring new research, new knowledge. And they bring this, not only to our department, but also they work on that with their students in their classes.

Every time when we– for instance, this year, we’re hiring 10 new faculty. And this means that every time a new faculty comes, he or she will develop a new course. Most of the faculty, they work in top areas of IT. Again, so the most interesting courses and areas that students might think about, we try to offer it. And we start offering courses right away. Pretty much every semester, every year, we have about two, three, new courses, which is a lot.

In addition to that, we provide a lot of support for students. Before I get that– in addition to that, we also have top faculty who work in– who are very established researchers working in top areas of IT, including cybersecurity. Our faculty, cybersecurity faculty, are affiliated with one of the most successful, I would say, the most famous, research centers in cybersecurity. You can also check it online. And this faculty is a faculty, their work on cutting-edge research and cybersecurity, bring it to our classes, to our students.

We also provide research opportunities for our students. And in addition to that, we also provide, for cybersecurity particularly, students, we provide one of the top internships in the country through the Department of Defense. And that’s a great way to get paid for the entire Master’s program, to have a secure job afterwards.

Students are– it is a very selective program. But, still, we are a department, we’ve been very successful, because in the past few years, we were getting those scholarships. Well, the way it works, you first get all students portfolios, then we work on that. We submit this to DoD. We provide our recommendations for students and then DoD selects students for their scholarships.

But since we’ve done such a great job in the past, we are well supported through this program. And we usually get quite a few students every year supported through this internship. And it’s a fully paid everything. Everything, the tuition, the books, and laptop, and everything you can think of, will be paid by that. So, again, we have great researchers working in our department. And they bring their knowledge and expertise to our classes. Next slide, please.

Well, I mentioned already that we cover quite a few areas, top areas, in IT. But as you probably checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you know that this particular area is expected to grow faster than pretty much any other occupation, on average. We have quite a few areas where our IT graduates find their jobs. But it’s much, much, much more than what you see on the screen.

And the reason why is because the IT field itself is very dynamic. It’s fluid. And you can see lots of new titles. I check jobs quite often, every semester or so, because I want to make sure that we are consistent with the industry. We develop new programs, again, for instance, we just created– not created, but we modified, the existing MS INFS, Information Systems program. We added quite a few concentrations in cloud computing, for instance, cloud software engineering.

We just added another concentration, machine learning engineering. This is not applicable to this particular, maybe, field, yet. But still, since for the online program, we already have two, and one more concentration is coming in fall, three different concentrations. So this is just a small subset of titles that you can see as your future career. Next slide, please.

Scholarships. OK. I talked about scholarships. In addition, to, again, DoD is something that I’m really proud of, because this scholarship is difficult to get for any university. But because we have a very strong research center in cybersecurity, we have established researchers working in cybersecurity. And, in the past, we’ve been doing– we’ve been providing very strong students in cybersecurity for this program, we are quite supported. We also have university scholarships for students, which you can check about through our Admissions Office.

In addition to that, we have industry-sponsored awards. Not that many, I will be honest. It’s not just like every semester a bunch of those. No, it’s quite a few, but not very often. But we also provide GTA and GRA assistantships to students who are interested in. These are very competitive too. But if a student is willing to take extra work, and work extra time, then it is possible. Just the last semester, I hired, for instance, for my classes, one of the students in this program. And she is probably one of the top students that I’ve ever seen for a long, long time. She was absolutely amazing. But still, we do have some opportunities to help students, if needed. Next slide, please.

All right. You can find a lot of information about it at our department, but– at our website. But I have to warn you. Please do not check our website yet. It is available, it is out there. But we are updating the website. And we’ve done such a great job. It took us about a year to modify it and present it in a new format, because it required some updates. It will be updated very soon. So you can get there and check it out, but don’t pay attention to how it looks right now, because we will update it very soon. Next slide, please.

All right. Well, as I mentioned earlier, for both concentrations, for any concentration in our department, students need to complete 30 credit hours, which means STEM courses. Usually students complete– not usually, but students complete four core courses. They are the same courses for all students, at the moment, for all concentrations. And then they complete six courses for their concentration. Out of those six, four courses will be required, and two courses are electives.

We have such a large variety for elective courses. You can look through that. And what I like about our program, again, it doesn’t matter which consultation you decide to choose. No matter where you go, you will still have an opportunity to check out some other areas, some other courses. Because, as you know, currently all the fields are interconnected very closely. And some students come to me and say, I’m in cybersecurity, but I really want to see big data courses, and so forth. So we could look into that and decide– well, we can look at what’s available out there for their electives. Next slide, please.

Well, we do have, even though I mentioned, we offered– we also offer this program on campus. But we are offering this particular program online for these two concentrations. We use Blackboard, as some of you probably already know about. And we run classes fall, spring, and summer. In summer, the schedule is a little tough, because it’s two courses per semester. And some students say it’s a lot of work. If you work full time, if you have a family, especially then, it’s a very large workload. That’s why we recommend students to carefully select the courses they’re taking.

Some courses might be a bit more difficult than others. In that case, I would suggest you to, if you have some concerns, I would suggest to discuss it with your advisors. And though it is coming in just a moment. But we have outstanding advisors, which I will discuss in just a second.

But before we move on, I really wanted to say that we incorporate lots of Active Learning teaching techniques in our classes. Because we have multiple faculty members who are Outstanding Teaching Award recipients, we also have faculty who received an Outstanding Teaching Award for online teaching specifically. And these awards are at the university level.

They’re very difficult, very difficult to receive. And it is a great achievement, one of the greatest achievements that a faculty member can receive. We have more than one in our department, we are very proud to say that. Which means that, when you take our online classes, even though it’s online classes, in class it’s much easier of course because you work with students– right next to students, and you can implement so much there. I do a lot of research on Active Learning. But even in online education, online classes, we make sure that our classes are engaging, our classes are interesting, and students can collaborate with other students. Students can work with a professor.

We also have– another point that I’m very proud of. We have GTAs, or teaching assistants, which is such a difference for students. Because if you have any questions, that’s what I tell my students in my classes, I always say sent am email to both me and the GTA, and we will respond in literally no time. We respond in less than 24 hours. For me, that’s usually within the first one or two hours, at most. But that’s how most faculty work.

We provide additional– we always hold office hours for our students. Even though, again, these class is online and students are not required to attend what’s called synchronous class meetings, nevertheless, I, for instance, in my classes, as well as many of my faculty colleagues, we offer what’s called optional class meetings. We record these class meetings. We post that for our students who could not attend them, because not everybody is available at a particular time. But still, these are the times when students can meet with the professor, in addition to lots of materials that we provide online that students can study themselves.

But you have interactions with professors, interaction with GTAs. GTAs also hold office hours. It’s online, but in our days, again, online is very easy. We are used to this now after two years. And I find it to be sometimes a bit more convenient because you don’t have to be on campus. You don’t have to plan ahead of time. Students could send an email saying, well, I’m available later on, can we please talk about this? And that, absolutely, yes. So, again, our online classes are doing quite well. And we received very good evaluations for the program itself and from– for our specific classes that we offer. And next slide, please.

Do we have anything else?

JANESSA: It should be our faculty advising.



I can see it right now, because I thought it was one more slide about our advisors. Well, easy case. That’s good. That’s good. Faculty advising is, yes, our faculty– well, about advising. It works differently in different programs. In our program, a student is assigned to an advisor, which– an academic advisor, which I will discuss in just a moment. In addition to that, and we have more than one. It’s not just like one advisor. I’ve heard stories, one advisor has hundreds of students, or thousands of students.

Though we are a very large department, still, our students are advised to multiple advisors. And they can contact any of these advisors. Because our advisors, they share the workload, they support them. But in addition to that, you can also– students also contact their faculty for advising. Any question you might have, our faculty can advise on the curriculum questions. But, more importantly, they might guide you regarding your future career choice. And that’s something that I always encourage students to do, or if you’re interested in the PhD program, consider contacting our faculty, consider discussing questions with them, and to see if a particular field of study is something you’re interested in or want to pursue. Next slide is–

The next slide is probably, yes, is about our amazing academic advisors. We have academic advisors that work with students on the curriculum. It’s Laura and Lisa. In addition to that, we also have advisors that work with students on their admissions. I don’t have all the names, unfortunately. But if you have any questions, that we can certainly help on that. But every time, when you submit your question regarding your admissions, then this goes to our advisors, and they will also help you with any questions you might have.

The reason why I’m happy to present this slide always is because we truly have outstanding advisors. I’m not just trying to make them feel good. They are not here right now, so they can’t even hear me. But they are absolutely incredible. You can send them an email anytime, any day. You will get the response within less than one day, immediately. Usually one or two hours, a couple of hours, maybe.

Because they meet with students every day, they might not be able to answer right away. But they respond within a day or so. They know everything. They are they still on top of all the changes because it changes the requirements of the university degree requirements might change. They stay on top of everything we do. They have all the answers. And if there is any questions that you– any issue that you’re encountering, then you can always contact them, and discuss with them any concern, or question, or issue that you have.

If you have problems in class, if you want to take more classes, which we don’t recommend, because it’s very difficult. But, still, if you’re not sure what to do next, if you cannot get into a class, if you have– I’ve never heard about any issues with our professors, never, in 15 years. But if anything happens, and you have a concern, they are the people that the people that have all the answers, they know where to go. If you have any forms, also. If there is a problem with– sometimes you need to use– to submit some forms, then they will guide you through these forms. They will help you submit.

So anything you have in mind, they will be happy to answer your questions. If you want to contact them right now and maybe ask some questions in addition to what we are discussing today, you can contact them at It’s on the screen. You can also go to our online scheduling tool and our website, and use this tool to schedule an appointment. You don’t have to be a MS AIT student. You can say that, I’m a prospective student, I’d like to meet with you to discuss some questions. And you can do so. And I believe that’s it.

If we can look at the last slide, maybe. Yes. And that’s what I was talking about, that– earlier, that, in addition to our advisors, the university provides a lot of support. And it’s great to see when students are interested in certain questions, they can always go there and check. They can ask about other programs, other units, about opportunities for students. I didn’t put here– actually. Yes. That’s my mistake.

I didn’t put here Career Services. Outstanding place. Oh, my goodness. They’re so good. But next time, I will definitely update that. And that’s– yeah. That’s probably– yes. So thank you so much. So this is– yeah. That’s the reason I didn’t put it up there, is because we have this great slide, which you probably cannot read because it’s too much. I understand that. But, still, if these slides can be maybe shared, or if you want to take a screenshot, or picture, it will be fine, too.

Well, that’s all I have for today. It took me a bit longer than I thought. But, still, now I am ready to answer questions. I see there is a chat, or let me say, there is something. Application deadline. Great question. Do we have an answer for this question?

JANESSA: For the fall semester, I don’t think the fall deadline has been set at this time. Usually, I give students about a month before the start of classes in which you can start expecting that. Classes for fall are going to begin August 22nd this year. So I’d say, get in your application before the end of July would probably be a good turnaround time for you, as far as deadlines.

And then we did have some, actually, submitted via email before. So I want to go ahead and run through those maybe as students are still kind of thinking of some. But we have a lot of fears. And I know you touched on communication from faculty. So a lot of students have some fears of how faculty maintains communication. Is there an opportunity to still network with them? Are there specific office hours? Or is it mostly going to be through email communication?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Oh, yes. Of course. Very good question. First of all, we communicate a lot. Well, I can say our department is very active. We– because that’s what– again, I guess all professors aren’t the same. But we are the department that communicates and works with students a lot. We communicate. Faculty contacts students. For instance, in my classes, when I teach these particular online classes, well, some students even mentioned that, well, it’s great. But you could send actually fewer emails to us.

Because I send emails, literally, I’m not exaggerating, every day, especially in the beginning. That’s every day, announcements, or emails. Then closer to the end of the semester, it’s reduced to just a few– just, to a few times a week. But still, my collaboration with students, but a few, still it means at least four or five times a week. So I do not contact students on weekends. I try to be understanding. But, anyway, so that’s number one.

Number two, that the GT also contacts students regularly. Number three, we have– it depends on a professor. Some professors have– they set up dates, specific dates and time, day and time when they meet with students. Let’s say, Monday, 6 to 7. But, I, for instance, work with students by appointment. So I am pretty much open to any time, any day. We can always because, as far as I understand, or that’s what my experience says. Students in graduate program are– they usually work quite often. And I don’t want to impose a certain time, 12 to 1 only, if students are not available.

And I’ve done this in the past. I try to do this, but nobody would show up. So I would sit there lonely doing nothing. I didn’t like that. That’s why I changed it to by appointment. And students can contact me any time. What I will also do, I encourage students to contact me via email as often as possible. I still feel that students don’t take an advantage of that enough. That’s my personal belief. Because, if I receive– if I don’t receive at least one email per day from a particular class, I would be surprised. But sometimes it happens.

But in addition to what we professors do, we also have GTAs. They respond. And they’re wonderful. We train GTAs. It’s not like it’s a student who doesn’t know exactly what he or she is doing. We– it’s very difficult to get a GTA position. Very difficult. It’s quite challenging. That’s why, when we select a GTA, we know that they know they have to work hard. And otherwise they will not get this position again. So our GTAs are incredible. And you can always get in touch with them, too. So I don’t know if I answered the question, but communication is constant. And I have never seen any complaints about the professor who would not be in touch with students all the time.

Would you like me to read questions? Or you have questions?

JANESSA: You can go ahead and answer the ones–


JANESSA: That are in the chat, and then we’ll do the emailed ones.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: OK. The fees, that’s not for me. I don’t know, unfortunately.

JANESSA: I don’t have them memorized off the top of my head. But what I would suggest is reach out to your admissions representative. If you don’t have one, one will reach out to you after the open house some time at the end of this week, or early next. And we’ll be able to get you a detail of all of the fees that are going to be included, the base tuition, additional fees, that you can have an idea of what your options are as far as funding. And then there is another one if you want to go ahead and read that one.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Oh, yes. This is a great question. I forgot to go over that. But next time, we will need to add it to the presentation. So let’s remember this. But this is a perfect question to ask. The way this program I promise I answer your question. But I would like to give a bit more information about it.

When, originally, this program was designed, the program was very successful. But when it got– again, when it got new faculty, and when we looked at what we are trying to achieve as a department, we felt it’s important to modify this program, and to add more– a little bit more technical courses to the program. But, still, we kept a lot of courses that were less technical, even, for instance, IT management.

IT management concentration is still available in our program, though that was one of the original concentrations that we had in the original program. And since we knew that our program brings lots of students who are not only– who don’t necessarily have a very strong IT background, or strong technical background, we wanted to keep our doors open to all students, because we have experience working with students with a non-IT background. And we wanted to continue that.

Because of that, we added one more so-called prep course. That course is taken in addition to the ten courses required to complete this program. And this prep course– well, what it does, it prepares students to be successful in the graduate program, which means that some students– and the way it works, some students might start the program and say, oof, well, I feel that it’s just– ooh, it’s tough.

We– in that case, we will just recommend to add that additional course. But what happens most of the time, the review committee– so we have the admissions committee for this program. That’s how it usually works in most departments. The admissions committee reviews each portfolio. And if the student doesn’t have a lot of, again, IT background, or no IT background at all, or there is– well, or just– or no experience in IT, because sometimes students don’t have necessarily an IT degree, but if they are very successful in their current jobs, and they’ve been doing their jobs for quite some time, then we could consider admitting them as any other student.

But if we feel– the committee feels it’s not enough, then the committee will admit the students provisionally. Don’t be scared of that word. It doesn’t mean– it’s not that scary. What it simply means that the student will take one additional course. And we also ask the students to complete two core courses, the first courses they take in the program, at the B level. They have to receive a B.

But since, in the graduate program, you probably– I don’t know if you know this or not, there is a big difference between undergraduate and graduate program in terms of grades. In graduate programs, students– the majority of students, since we work with mature students, and they are really interested in these programs, we have mostly the students who receive As and Bs. It’s very rare that the student receives a C.

And it’s also– again, students can’t really receive a lot of Cs in the graduate program, otherwise they will not be able to graduate. The requirement is the student can get, at most, two Cs, which is not recommended, because it’s already not a very good sign for a graduate program. For a graduate student, that means the graduate student is not keeping up with the program if it’s two C or more.

But the student can still get two Cs and graduate, if the GPA is 3 or above. This– that’s why the requirements, provisional requirements, they’re not very tough to complete. That’s pretty much the requirements for all other students in any graduate program that we offer. I hope I answered this question. That was a very good question. Pat, did I answer?

JANESSA: Can respond, I think, in the chat, Pat, to see if that was sufficient.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Oh, yes. Thank you.

JANESSA: Perfect. And then, kind of on the same line, we actually have some questions that were emailed in about what faculty is looking for when they’re looking at applicants. So is this a good program for students who are coming directly out of their undergrad? Or do we see a lot of individuals with some work experience in the field?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: It doesn’t matter. Great question. What matters to us, that the student is eager to work. Because this program will require students to work. We have some challenging classes, as any graduate program is expected to be. We have loads of students who just graduated from– received their BS degree. We have a lot of students who have already received– have some experience, work experience, and they want to advance their career. They come to us. We also see students who are– well, they’d be a little bit– so who completed their degree some time ago, and they want to switch their career. So that’s– all these students are in our classes.

JANESSA: Wonderful. I know that’s a big concern for a lot of people, if they don’t have any work experience. So it’s good to know they won’t be alone if they’re coming directly from undergrad. Some other ones, any recommendations for students? I know there are some nerves around individuals who may have graduated a few years ago, their GPA isn’t the highest. Might be right there on the border. Is there any suggestions for those potential students? Maybe taking some classes, some work experience, anything like that?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Well, it always helps to get maybe some programming experience a little bit. And it doesn’t have to be real advanced, but that will help, certainly. Even if you never had any programming experience at all, then I would suggest an introductory course. And there are loads of open courses right now open for free. So you can check it out on Coursera, or anything else. You can do that. If you have some specific concerns, you can contact me, and I will be happy to discuss with you.

Students are very, very different. It feels like– well, we received lots of applications, they are pretty much the same. No. I’ve never– I’ve been doing this for many years, and I feel still every applicant is unique, especially when it comes to the graduate program. Undergraduate is a bit easier. Pretty much everyone– almost everyone comes from maybe other high school. But here, it’s different. People have–

Or another example. For instance, you can get professional certificates. If you’re interested in cybersecurity, there are a few, again, first level certificates which might help. You could try that. If you have a GPA below a 3.0, that’s difficult, because the requirement is 3 or above in your last 60 credits in your education.

JANESSA: OK. Perfect. And then you mentioned earlier some synchronous sessions. Could you talk about a little bit of how the lectures are? If they’re recorded, if there are lectures, what those synchronous sessions or asynchronous sessions may consist of?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Yes. Absolutely. Well, first of all, every class has videos. That’s each single class developed by a professor. Then there are different ways professors approach them. Some professors develop all videos themselves, because they think that they prefer to present their material exactly the way they say it, which is quite common. Some professors, they utilize this– such a large variety of resources available out there today, because, by now, a lot has been developed already. And there are certain topics that could be covered that are already covered by experts in the field.

And, because of that, these instructors, they– first, they have their own videos. For instance, I do. I have my own videos. But in addition to that, I recommend resources, it’s called Open Educational Resources. I add these resources to my course, because I honestly feel it’s important. I strongly believe it’s very important.

In addition to that, we do not have required synchronous meetings with students. We don’t have that. But some professors, and I am one of them, I like to give optional meetings, to have optional class meetings with students. If we do so, then, again, it’s up to the student whether they can or cannot join. That’s perfectly fine. It’s not required. But these meetings will be recorded.

What I usually do, instead of a long lecture, I give quick summaries about certain topics, we discuss questions. I also– I personally, and maybe not I, but actually all of our professors, we are really into hands-on assignments. We like to work on problems. We don’t like lectures. Just two hours, two and a half hours, giving a lecture, it doesn’t work anymore. But we have exercises that we work with students, we work with students together on. And this is recorded. Afterwards, it will be posted on Blackboard. And students who could not attend can review these lectures in addition to what we provide,

But, in my opinion, even if a student doesn’t want to review those optional lectures, it’s still fine, because we have those pre-recorded videos in each class, and they are fantastic. They’re professional developed, top-notch, so– and everything you need to know is there.

JANESSA: Perfect. I think we had another question come in through the chat.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Sorry. I missed it.

JANESSA: Oh, you’re fine. It’s regarding– it was specific to the DoD’s internship and scholarship program that you mentioned earlier. I don’t know if you’ll have the information on this. But a student’s asking if there’s any advantage to current or former service members for those spots. Do you know anything about that?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Yes, I do. If I understood the question correctly. If not, please correct me. Sometimes it’s really funny when the person starts answering a question which was not asked, so please stop me. But if this question says, if you are, or if you were related to some DoD service before, will you have any advantage or not?

Absolutely, yes. And I know the answer to this question because they change requirements, and their criteria, every year. Maybe not that much, but a little bit. And last year, that was one of the, not requirements, but that was something that they were pleased to see on an application. Pat, did I answer your– OK. OK. Oh, good. Good. All right.

JANESSA: They were ahead of the game. OK. Perfect. And then, again, I know you may be only able to address the question from your perspective. But are there a lot of group assignments in the program? Or is it more of an individual basis in which they’ll be receiving your assignments?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Oh, that’s both. Where do I start? I can talk for another two hours about that. Well, short answer, we have all the assignments, different types of assignments. I use in my course, but my course is similar to all other courses. But I have practice problems. I have homeworks. I have problems, collaborative assignments. I have for individual assignments. I have quizzes. I have discussion board discussions, and postings. We have everything.

We make sure that students collaborate when they want to. Some instructors, they assign– even that is a task. So the students have to form groups, and work in teams. Some faculty, for instance, I don’t do that. I feel students form their teams on their own. And it works quite well because they work the way they prefer to work, and it’s quite successful, and very efficient. So in my classes, students will collaborate through the discussion board, and they will respond to each other’s questions, and they work together.

And there are some individual assignments, too, of course, because we have to make sure that the student demonstrates their work. But in my class, for instance, again, on practice problems, students can– I encourage students to work together. I even ask them, please, do so, and please correct it yourselves. And because right now, I believe collaboration is– not I believe. But I actually do research on that. And if you look at industry reports, they all say that one of the number one skills that students need today would be collaborative skills.

JANESSA: Wonderful. That was a list of all of the questions that we got emailed in before. Do you guys have any last-minute questions? We still have about 10 minutes left. I’d love to take advantage of the time that we have with our faculty to answer anything that may be left. And, Dr. Rytikova, is there anything else that you want to say before we go ahead and end, if we don’t get any more?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Oh, there is one question.

JANESSA: There’s one more.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Not really, Pat. Not necessarily. We provide software for our students for free. So that will be a part of what the university and the school provides. Hardware well, you need a good laptop, or computer, PC. It doesn’t matter. So you need– you need a good computer. That’s pretty much it. And then you go with what you– also need a microphone. I’m sorry. You need a microphone. You need maybe a camera. But that’s as far as we go.

JANESSA: OK. Perfect.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: OK. Well, if there are no questions, we can still wait for a few moments. But I could summarize today’s session with the following. I always tell students, I know that I’m supposed to say we have– what I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to say, we have a great program, come to us. And I never say that. We do have a great program. No questions about that. And you can check it out. You can send me questions afterwards. I will be more than happy to answer. You can contact faculty directly, and ask them questions, what they think, anything you want to. We can do that.

But I always tell students, it’s not about our program. It’s about you. You need to select what you think will work for you best. There are a few other programs in our– well, in our school, there is only one more program like that, also for [INAUDIBLE]. You can check it out. But there are also other departments that offer programs, either online, or partially online, or on campus. You can check other universities. What’s important is to make sure that you find something that you are interested in.

I don’t know if you can be passionate at this point, because you haven’t started studying, so you don’t know exactly what’s there. But if you were always curious about, for instance, cybersecurity, if you are curious about the world, because right now it’s really important, and look at what’s going on in the world. So cybersecurity is one of the top areas that you might be interested in. Then please, try our cybersecurity.

If you are more on the data side, I am personally on the data side. I do everything with data. I would highly recommend that you think about our data analytics and intelligence methods program concentration, because it’s something that you will definitely enjoy. You will work with numbers, you will see results from these numbers. That’s always fascinating– still fascinates me. You get a bunch of numbers, and when you put it together, you do your magic, and then, oof, you have some interesting conclusions, or results, that tells you so much about the entire population.

If interested in IT management, we also have that. In our concentration, IT management is different from business, because we don’t cover just business aspects of IT, but we focus more on IT, but we also add this business perspective, which is quite unique. That’s also interesting. You might be curious about that, too. But it’s all about– and I also– it’s my personal belief, so maybe others disagree with me. But I also believe that, if you select any of these fields, and you feel that it’s something you’re interested in, you will be successful later on.

I hear often from students, they ask me sometimes very openly, just tell me which concentration to choose where I will get a lot of money. Well, and my answer is always the same. It’s not about just that. It’s about you. If you find something you hate, it’s very difficult to succeed. No matter what you do, you will work very hard. You will study. But it will be so painful that it’s difficult. But if you are interested in certain tasks, even if it feels like it’s less popular than you think, you will be more successful in the long run.

And, plus, what’s important is, to remember that everything today– and I honestly– I know that for fact, that everything in IT is so closely related that you start with something in one area, then you move on to the next one, to the next one, and so forth. So you will be successful, no matter what you do.

I believe so, Faith. That’s my answer would be absolutely, yes. Or absolutely, yes. 25 probably came from the fact that we limit our number of students in our classes. For graduate program, for graduate classes, it’s 25 or below. But on average, we often run classes, our average would be 15, one five. 15 students or so. And the reason why, because, well, first of all, we don’t want to run large classes. But second is, because some of our advanced classes, we don’t get enough, we don’t get 25 students. So we’ll run it with fewer students. So, Faith, I hope I answered your question.

JANESSA: Perfect. Well, we are about almost at time. So, again, any last minute questions, feel free to go ahead and get them answered now. We really appreciate everyone joining us this afternoon. It looks like it was answered. Perfect. And that is everything that we have today. Thank you so much, Dr. Rytikova, for joining us this afternoon. We really appreciate it. Nothing beats hearing directly from our faculty, directly from our coordinators, about how our program is run, and about the statistics of it. It’s so helpful.

And thank you, everyone prospective, for joining us this afternoon, and being interactive. We appreciate all of the questions. And feel free to reach out to us if you do have any. I’m happy to answer any specific questions you guys have about admissions, about tuition, about deadlines. You can always give us a call. I will go ahead and actually put our phone number in the chat. We have someone usually in the office from about 8:30 in the morning until 8:00 PM Monday through Thursday, and then Fridays usually until about 5:00. So feel free to give us a call if you do have any questions, we’re happy to assist in any way. And, again, thank you so much for joining us. We’ll give you a few moments back before we go ahead and end everything else.

Dr. Rytikova, you are– we’re not able to hear you.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: And I was so excited about giving my speech. I just wanted to thank everyone for coming. Thank you for inviting me. And I will be happy to answer your questions, too.

JANESSA: Wonderful. All right. All right, everyone. Feel free to reach out to the information that is in the chat. We’ll have– if you don’t have an admissions representative and you’re looking for one, you can reach out to that phone number. We’re happy to assist. Additionally, we will likely have someone reach out to you within the next week or so with any additional questions. But thank you, all, for joining us. I’ll go ahead and end out everything for us. You guys have a good day.

Masters in Economics Transcript

STEPHANIE RACINE: So welcome Dr. Coyne, and thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. One of the main reasons that people tend to choose our economics program is because of our professors. I found that in this program in particular, students tend to mention articles that our instructors have authored, or even videos they’ve seen by the instructors, and I know from recently updating your bio, Dr. Coyne you seem to stay up to date in the world of economics.

I’ll go ahead and advance the slide here, but can you go ahead and tell us a little bit about your background, and what you’ve been doing lately? And then from there, it would be great to hear an overview of the economics program from you, some of the things that you love about the program, and some of the main things that students should know about the program? How does that sound, Dr. Coyne?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Wonderful. You can hear me OK, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE RACINE: Yes, we can hear you just fine. So I’ll go ahead and advance to your bio here, and I’ll let you take it away Dr. Coyne.

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: All right, well, let me second the welcome, and thank you all for taking time out of your day to visit with us and spend a little bit of time talking about the Department of Economics and the Masters in Economics. And so I’m going to do this without trying to bore you by talking about myself, but I’m going to use my own story as kind of an entry point into what makes Mason unique, and then the program itself.

And that entry point is– one thing that wasn’t mentioned is that I’m also a product of the economics department. And so after graduating from undergraduate, I grew up in New York City and went to undergraduate in New York City. I worked in finance. I worked for JPMorgan, now JPMorgan Chase, for two years.

And then I decided to go back and get my PhD in economics, and George Mason University was the only school I applied to. Fortunately, I was accepted and I attended, and that’s where I did my graduate work. That was from 2001 to 2005. I graduated, I had held two other positions at other academic institutions before returning home, or what I consider to be home, in 2010, and I’ve been here ever since. Stephanie mentioned, in addition to being a professor of economics on the faculty, I’m also the director of graduate programs, and so I oversee the portfolio of all of our graduate programs, including the online MA.

So why did I personally come back to Mason, and why is it the only school I applied to, and why do I love being here, and why do I call it home? Well, I think what really makes us unique as a department is our history. And I just want to spend a few moments just highlighting a couple of points because I really think it’s important for understanding very much what we’re all about as a department, but also, some of the themes you see in the program, even if you haven’t read in detail about the program, just looking at the course titles, you’ll see some of these themes in there.

And so Mason, as far as universities go, large universities, it’s relatively young. And so you’ve got to think about it really start taking off in the early ’80s. And one of the things that happened in the early ’80s was that the Center for the Study of Market Processes moved from Rutgers to George Mason.

And in 1982 or ’83, FA Hayek, an economist who had won the Nobel Prize in 1974, came and spoke at Mason as part of the department of economics, and that really gave kind of a stamp of approval from an economist with amazing credentials– again, a Nobel Prize– that kind of brought attention to Mason. In fact, I think you can find that lecture from the early ’80s on YouTube if it interests you.

But in any case, the other thing that happened in 1983 was that the Center for the Study of Public Choice moved from Virginia Tech to Mason, and that center was led by James Buchanan, and James Buchanan would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1986 while he was at Mason. And so you have Hayek, you have Buchanan, and together, they worked on a research program that we refer to as Virginia Political Economy– this blending of insights from market process economics, public choice economics, and that’s really foundational to our approach.

Then the third thing I just want to highlight briefly is that Vernon Smith moved to George Mason University in 2001 from– he was at Arizona prior. He started the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, which focuses on experimental economics, and he won the Nobel Prize in 2002 while at Mason.

And so there is this very strong and deep tradition of groundbreaking thinkers– Hayek, Buchanan, Vernon Smith– who have heavily influenced and shaped the foundations of what our department is all about. And together, the insights that they and those that work in those research programs bring is what you’ll hear some people call Masonomics. It’s what’s unique about George Mason– multiple Nobel Laureate winners, historically, on the faculty, which is really rare for a young university, and that unique approach to studying economics.

And so that’s why I chose George Mason myself, and you see that throughout the program. And so now to kind of transition into the MA program and say a little bit about it– and in my comments I’m going to touch upon– having done these virtual meetings numerous times now– I’m going to touch upon some of the things that I get asked most frequently, and of course, as Stephanie pointed out, you can ask clarifying questions or subsequent questions, and I’ll certainly do my best to answer them.

And so the online MA program is a fully accredited 30-degree master’s program. It is the equivalent, in terms of its standing, both within the University and with accreditation agencies, as our on-the-ground program. It is 30 credits, as I mentioned. There are 15 credits of core classes, and each course is three credits– so five core classes, and then several elective classes, and then a capstone class that you will take at the end of the program of study.

The core classes are traditional economics classes, ones that you will see in any graduate program in economics. And so while we have our unique perspective, which I mentioned at the outset, and which I’ll come back to in a moment, I do want to emphasize to you that the core classes are traditional economics classes.

And so what do I mean by that? Well, there’s two microeconomic theory courses– Micro 1 and Micro 2. There’s a math econ course. There is an econometrics course, and a macro course. And in those classes, you will be exposed to neoclassical traditional economic theory, the different schools of thought in macroeconomics, and then applied tools in the econometrics course which, in addition to theory, also introduces students to Stata, which is one of the most widely-used statistical packages among economists, among data analysts, and so on.

And so one of the questions I often get is, well, what statistical package does the econometrics course use? And is it applied or is it purely theoretical? And it’s both. You’ll be exposed to the underlying theory, but also to the applied aspect as well, and you’ll get hands-on experience with that.

And so then we move into the elective courses. And, again, it’s an interesting mix. And just to highlight a couple of points, which will tie into my opening remarks, we have a class in public economics and public choice. So you will be introduced to a combination of traditional public economics, but also that emphasis on public choice, going back to James Buchanan. We have a course in experimental economics, where you will be introduced to the foundations of setting up and running experiments– again, linking back to the work of Vernon Smith.

We have a market process theory class, which I am designing and which will roll out in about a month for the first time, and that will expose students and engage students in the tradition of market process economics. But then, of course, we also have additional classes. So there’s a causal inference class, which is another statistics class focused on estimating causation. And again, this class uses Stata as well, and it will build upon the initial econometrics class to reinforce and expand upon the skills you learn there.

So you’re getting a really nice mix of theoretical work, or exposure to theoretical aspects of economics, but also applied aspects as well.

A couple other things I want to just mention to you– the culminating class, which I had mentioned briefly in my earlier comments, but I do want to spend a couple of moments on, because it’s something I get asked about, is the capstone course. And the capstone course is the culminating class in the master’s program, and it’s designed to be project-based and demonstrate the ability to integrate numerous things that you’ve learned throughout the class– I mean, throughout the program, pardon me.

And so there’s a portion of it where you have to demonstrate your mastery of economic theory and apply that, and take concepts from that and apply it to actual real world occurrences. And then there’s a opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to engage in statistical analysis as well that you learn in that econometric class and the causal inference class. And one of the things you do in that class is you engage in a replication exercise, and so you choose a peer-reviewed paper that exists– it’s already existing– you review the relevant research that’s cited in the paper, but also do some research to update the literature review. And then you create a proposal to replicate the data exercise that takes place in that paper.

And again, the goal there is for you to be able to pick topics that interest you, because you get to select the paper you want to replicate, but also to kind of flex your academic and intellectual muscles that you’ve developed throughout the paper– I mean, throughout the program, pardon me.

And so that’s a very broad overview of the program. The program is designed to be largely asynchronous, and that’s done purposefully so. So we cater to students who have a lot on their plate typically. They have intellectual pursuits, which is why they’re interested in the program, but they often have work obligations, family obligations, other professional obligations, and the program is such that there’s a somewhat regular schedule to it, meaning there’s eight-week sessions, and there’s things that are due each week, but within that, we try to build in flexibility so that you can control exactly how you allocate your time within each of those weeks.

Let’s see what else other common questions that are oftentimes asked– and I’ll make mention of this at a high level. And again, you all can ask questions. I can try to clarify. One of the questions that often comes up is background. What background do I need in order to succeed in this program? And if you look at graduate education in economics, it varies greatly, by the way. Some programs want you almost to have a– they’ll say you need an economics undergraduate degree or some of them want the equivalent of a math minor or even major.

And for our program, here’s how I usually put it in terms of the suggestions. We suggest– you don’t need an economics degree as an undergraduate. I should say that first of all. We suggest that you have a comfort level with the equivalent of intermediate micro, intermediate macro, a semester of calculus, and a semester of statistics. And I would add algebra to that as well. And that’s a baseline, and when I say a comfort level, those can be formal classes that you’ve taken, but they don’t have to be.

Now of course, one of the wonderful things with access to information is that we can find resources, whether they’re books or videos or whatnot, to be exposed to these different ideas. And so if you can be– if you’re comfortable with that, then you’ll have a comfort level coming in.

Now the more you are comfortable, or the more exposure you have to calculus, algebra, and so on, basic statistics, the easier some things will be, certainly. But I should say, our student body– I’m talking about our current student body– is extremely diverse in their backgrounds, extremely diverse. And by that, I mean, some of them studied economics in the past. Some didn’t. Some who studied economics did so decades ago, so it’s not like they are recent graduates of an undergraduate program. Others are recent graduates, but in different areas and want to be exposed to economics. And again, we try our best to cater to all those students.

The structure of the program is that math econ comes first. So there’s a math econ course that’s part of the core. That comes before the micro courses, and again, the idea there is to expose students to the fundamental tools of mathematical economics before they hit the micro theory classes so that you have that baseline.

There’s also an optional– we call it math camp online, and once you’re registered for the program, you’ll get access to that through Blackboard, and it’s completely optional and it’s self-paced. And you can look through those materials before starting math econ, so once you’re in the program, you get access to the Blackboard site that has these materials, and it’s a good way to kind of brush up. And again, if you have a very strong math background, which some of our students do, you can just skip over that, or you can skim them, and if you feel comfortable you say, OK, I’m in good shape, and I feel comfortable. And that’s wonderful as well.

And so that’s some of the background on the mathematical requirements, and I’ll certainly answer any more questions people have related to that. And then the final thing I just want to mention before we open it up is what can you do with an economics degree? That’s, again, a common question, a really good question– something, certainly, all of us should think about before we pursue any degree in life, whether it’s economics or something else.

And the nice thing about economics, but also it makes answering that question in a very specific way difficult, is that you can do lots of different things with an economics degree. It’s not like you’re pigeonholed into a very specific area because economics is a toolkit, if you will, that provides an analytical framework for thinking about a variety of issues in the world. And I think this is nicely reflected in what our students typically go on to do. And across our master’s programs, we, on the ground and in-person– actually, on the ground and online– our students have and do a wide variety of jobs.

Some of them work in government. They work either– some of them work for the federal government, some work for state and local governments. Some of them work in private industry. So we have students who go into consulting. We’ve had students who go into investment banking after pursuing a master’s degree in economics. We’ve had students who start their own business.

Others go into nonprofits, so they end up working in the nonprofit space, and there, it’s extremely diverse what people have ended up doing. Some have gone to work for nonprofits that are focused on economic development in other countries. Other people have worked with and gone on to start nonprofits for domestic work, the work that they do domestically. And the work that they do varies greatly from various work in think tanks to humanitarian-type initiatives, among others.

And so you are certainly not limited with an economics degree. You can choose your own path. I know some of you, perhaps, which is common for some of our master’s students, is they pursue this to advance in their existing careers, so you might be in a career and you want to obtain a graduate degree in order to advance in that career, and that works as well. So we have lots of students that do that.

And so there’s really a wide ranging mix of backgrounds of career goals and personal goals. And like I said, the nice thing about economics is it empowers you to do lots of those different things. So let me stop there and open it up. And let me just check with Stephanie to see if there’s any questions so I can make sure that I am answering the questions that you all have.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Well, thank you, Dr. Coyne, for that very thorough overview, and even some things that we may not have previously known about the program. So we did have some questions roll in, but just for those of you– I noticed that about half of you joined right after the presentation started. So I wanted to point out that down at the bottom of your screen, you should see a chat or Q&A section. You can actually type in your questions for Dr. Coyne, and we’ll read them so that he can answer them for you.

And we did already have a question roll in. It was about the eight-week format of the classes. So the student is asking how many classes can they take in an eight-week period. So I know that you mentioned it’s 10 courses worth 30 credits, so out of that 10 courses, how many would they take per eight-week term?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: It varies. Some take one, some take two, and in principle, you could take you could take three, but it would get a little intense, I think. Most people I think, with the other things they’re balancing in life, and because it’s eight weeks– and they’re full courses.

So depending where you went to school– I know some schools run on quarter, some work on 14-weeks semesters. So eight weeks can be intense. So it really comes down to how much you want to focus on this relative to other things. But you could take several classes at once, and several are offered at once. So hopefully that answers that question.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Sure. Well, how many hours of study time would you say a student should put in per eight-week class to be successful.

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, it varies greatly. So that’s a good question. It’s a very hard question to answer because I don’t want to mislead. And part of it is based on background and your comfort level with this particular material. But I would, at a minimum, say, if someone pushed me, on average something like four hours a week minimum. That’s minimum.

And remember, there’s no– some of the courses have built-in synchronous meetings. But as a benchmark, as I said earlier– and I want to make it very clear to avoid any confusion. The program is purposely designed in an asynchronous format. And what I mean by that is it’s not like– if you think back to what was most likely your undergraduate experience, you had a class Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 to 11. I’m making that up, but something like that– a very regular routine throughout whatever the semester was.

It won’t be like that. It would be something like, OK, this week, you have this due on Sunday or Friday, and you can self-pace yourself, but you have that deadline. And then, again, for some classes, like the one I’m designing that will be rolling out in a month, I can’t remember if we have two or three synchronous meetings built in– they’re optional. And they’re kind of checkpoints along the way. And so I’ll be I’ll be holding those to get to know the students face-to-face, but also to be there to ask if you have any questions and to talk about things that interest you.

But that varies. Some classes meet on a more regular basis. Some meet on a less regular basis. But I raise that because it’s not like you’re going to have three hours a week sitting in class face-to-face that you need to show up. And so when I’m saying the four hours a week, take that into account as well. It’s not in addition to a synchronous class meeting, and I just want to mention that because I know a lot of people in their mind have that– well, there’s certain time that you spend face-to-face in a classroom, and then there’s time you spend outside of a classroom, and so it’s slightly different just given the modality of the program.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Sure, and in admissions, a lot of the students ask will these synchronous sessions be held in the evening to accommodate working professionals, and will they be recorded for anyone who can’t log on?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, those are great questions. So again, it varies. I’ll be holding mine in the evening for that very reason. Recording it varies from class to class, and part of it, I think, depends on the environment the professor wants to create.

So in some environments where the professor is speaking more, they might record it and post it, but another where it’s open, and perhaps they’re not sure that all the participants feel comfortable being recorded and having what they’re saying being posted just because they want to create an environment where people are comfortable to talk about whatever they want to talk about– those things may not be posted. So we don’t have a universal rule across the program. And so you should expect a variation on that, rather than one or the other.

STEPHANIE RACINE: And if a student has to miss a live session due to an engagement, what would you suggest that the student do in that case?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Well, to the extent– well, it depends. So for in those instances where they are optional, then if– and again, there’s faculty for the classes, even though they’re asynchronous, and you can contact the faculty throughout the class, by the way, I should mention. It’s not like you have no one to contact.

So let’s say– I’ll talk about myself, my own class, just because it’s easier for me to reference and it’s something concrete for you to relate to– throughout the class, even when there’s not synchronous meetings, if a student said, I’m having issues with x or y, first, we could try to deal with it over email, but then if, for whatever reason, we need to set up an appointment, it would be the equivalent of office hours, virtual office hours, just like it would be for other modalities.

If it’s a required meeting, which again, those aren’t in my class, but if it was another class, presumably the faculty would be understanding that some students wouldn’t be able to attend and work with you because, again, all of our faculty on the design of these courses know that one of the features of the program, as I mentioned at the outset, is to build in that flexibility, given all of the other obligations that you and your colleagues in the program would have, which we fully appreciate and respect.

STEPHANIE RACINE: And I really love that you clarified that, Dr. Coyne, because I think so many students assume that online learning means they’ll be isolated and reading a book, and that’s it. But I love the fact that the faculty is so accommodating and willing to meet with students and even offer interactive live sessions where students can have that connection. So thank you for that.

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: And if I can just say– sorry. While we’re on the live portion, I want to mention one other thing that I do. And again, I oversee the program in addition to teaching a class in it, and I’m going to ramp these up starting in late summer or fall, and so if you all came to the program, you’d be part of this. But I did this once before.

And what I do is I hold optional live events. These are outside of a class. So think of Chris– graduate director, not Chris professor– and I have one of my colleagues on, and so for the first one I did, I had my colleague Pete Boettke on, and I’ll have them on Zoom. It’s in the evening and it’s pre-announced.

And I kind of ask some starting questions, and we have a conversation about what they’re working on their research, and then I open it up, and it’s kind of an ask me anything. And it’s exclusive to the online master’s program, so none of our other students have access to that. It’s all for you and your colleagues. And it’s an opportunity for you to engage with the faculty who are on our– these are full-time faculty– and engage with them as you see fit.

When I did it that time a couple of months ago, people came– some people were very engaged. Others listened, and that’s OK too. There’s nothing– it’s another educational opportunity. There’s no grade, no credit, no attendance being taken. It’s purely intellectual consumption for you all, and so I just wanted to mention that because it’s another aspect of our program that has a synchronous element to it, but also that flexibility.

And I certainly recognize that when you are all thinking about a program, and one of the things that’s attracted to it is the asynchronous feature because of the flexibility, you also want some of that synchronous interaction. And so even though it’s not the dominant component, I don’t want to make it sound like it is, I do want to make clear to you that there are these opportunities, both within certain classes, but also outside of them as well.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Excellent, and we do have some questions rolling in, so this is an engaged group of students here. The next question is, how does the capstone differ from a traditional thesis, and why is the capstone offered to the online students?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Thank you that’s a wonderful set of questions. And so let me try my best to answer them accurately and concisely. This is how I view the difference between– I’ll start, I’ll do both of them right in a row. The difference between a thesis and the capstone is this. A thesis is typically a multi-semester, in-depth research project that produces not quite a dissertation– the dissertations are the PhD level. But it’s kind of like a dissertation junior, dissertation light.

So you’re thinking or looking at something like a 50 to 100 page document on a topic that’s deeply researched and demonstrates a mastery, at least of the existing literature, on that. A one eight-week session is not possible to do that, and it would be irresponsible of us to expect a student to be able to do that. It would be irresponsible and unrealistic for us to expect me or one of my colleagues to be able to do that, by the way. And so that is the difference between it.

The capstone is meant to provide you with an entry point to reinforce and kind of aggregate the skills you’ve learned and to have an entry point into engaging in the early stages of a research project in terms of how you would execute a research project with the replication that I was talking about. The second question– oh, the second question was why that for the online, and that’s a wonderful question.

So one of the points of confusion– I’m going to try to stay on track here– is between the online and on-the-ground program. And so people look at the website, and they get confused, and one of the things they get confused about is that the programs, the courses, look very similar until the capstone course because for on-the-ground program there is no capstone course, which I think was the impetus behind your excellent question. So I’m glad you raised it. For the on-the-ground students, they have to take an exam. It’s called the Comprehensive Exam. It is a comprehensive exam on the core classes on micro and macro. And so they don’t have a required capstone course, they have to pass that exam.

When we were designing this program, we talked to numerous people, faculty at other schools, but also students as well, or potential students, and one of the things they emphasized to us was that they really valued getting exposed to applied work. And even if it was at the initial stages, thinking about how to do some research, and so we designed the capstone course to substitute for the comprehensive exam that is offered only to on-the-ground students, and to offer that opportunity to students in the program. And so that’s the history behind it, but also the reason behind it.

And so you all, meaning the online MA cohorts, do not have to take a comprehensive exam. And so if you see that language online, don’t get confused. That’s purely for the on-the-ground students.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Thank you, and a student is asking, are there any other financial aid options for the online program beyond the financial aid student loans? So is there a place that you would suggest that a student look for scholarships or anything else, or should we just direct them to the financial aid site?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: You know– and I don’t know off the top of my head, but there is a website that George Mason I don’t know if it’s Office of Financial Aid or Office of Graduate Admissions maintains that as like a central hub of all different scholarships, just a posting of the availability of them, and if you reach out to me or to Stephanie or admissions, the admissions group, we can help you get a link to that site. I don’t want to waste your time looking it up while we’re sitting here.

STEPHANIE RACINE: And I was going to point out, I can’t see your name there, but if you give us your name and email address– it’s in our email that we send out down at the bottom. There’s a scholarship link, and you’re welcome to call in and we can help you with that– where to find the information.

And then is there a minimum pace? So this student is kind of the opposite from the earlier question. For students who don’t want to take two or three classes in a traditional semester could a student take one eight-week class during the traditional semester instead of taking the week class on the front half and one on the back half? So can they just do one at a time if they would like– so that would be three classes in the year?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: What– one class per eight-week session? Is that– Stephanie, am I understanding that?

STEPHANIE RACINE: They’re asking if rather than taking two eight-week long classes during the traditional semester, can they just take one during the semester?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Oh, yeah. I mean, you could spread things out. I mean, that will take you longer to get through the required credits, of course. But yes, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you structure this. And we have students doing this all different paths. And again, life– we understand people have lives and that lives are complicated, especially during– they have, certainly during the last two years, they have been with the pandemic. And so we’ve had students who have signed up for two classes and ended up dropping one because a work obligation or family obligation, and so yeah, there’s a lot of flexibility.

Again, you’d have to– what you’d always want to do– and this is the same advice for all students. So irregardless of on-the-ground, online, you want to take one class or three, you always want to kind of have– I call it a program of study, but it’s kind of like your roadmap, a roadmap for, OK, I know I have these number of credits to complete, and you want to map those out always to make sure you’re taking the right courses and also in the right order.

For most of the classes– for the electives, it doesn’t matter what order you take them, but you wouldn’t want to take Micro 2 before Micro 1. That’s what I’m trying to get at– that’s a good example. And we did have a student do that, by the way. There’s no ban against it. But I did caution them that could be creating challenges for them, but they insisted on it, and more power to them. But there’s a lot of flexibility there with that. And there’s people to guide you and advise you to make sure you’re on track with the right classes.

But again, the only thing I want to mention is certain financial aid packages require certain things with credits and whatnot. And so I just want to mention that as a caveat to my comment about flexibilities. There’s constraints, obviously, and also, I know some places that have a workplace that pays for it or helps pay for it– they have certain requirements to about number of credits or grades. So my comments are not controlling or take into account those other potential context-specific constraints.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Yes, and one of the wonderful benefits of this program is you’ll have a student success coach, and we encourage you to opt into automatic registration. That way, we can ensure that you get the correct classes in the correct order. And if you decide to take time off, just let your student success coach know, and then she’ll be able to let when you can get your next class.

So are synchronous sessions held at the same day each week, or can they vary, or do you have an idea of the day and time? For example, will it be every Thursday at a certain time, or will they always be Monday through Thursday, or would they ever be Friday through Sunday. And I’m sorry, I combined a couple of other questions together because I could see them coming up in the chat, but could you just give us a little more insight on the times that the synchronous sessions may potentially be held. And we understand it can vary by instructor.

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, that’s really the answer. And I’m not trying to avoid the question, believe me. What I’m trying to do is avoid giving you a false answer or incomplete information under the guise of answering your question. And it varies. It varies on the professor and the class. And so what we don’t have is any kind of program universal that says all synchronous meetings will be held on Thursday at 7:00 PM, to provide an example. And so there’s variation.

But again, I do want to make clear that synchronous sessions are not a built-in feature of the program, and what I mean by that is I don’t want you to think, well , I can’t attend synchronous sessions so I can’t do the program, or I have a schedule that doesn’t allow me to do that. The program is designed to be largely asynchronous and to the extent synchronous aspects are involved, it is to supplement and complement the asynchronous portion.

And I realize I’m repeating myself, but I do want to that clear because I think it’s one of the things that’s both unique about the program but sometimes a point of confusion.

STEPHANIE RACINE: And I think you worded that perfectly. It’s more of an enhancement to the program and an option to give people more of that opportunity to have questions answered. And you will find that in many graduate programs, so we just like to tell you about it up front rather than surprising you with it.

So we have a couple of questions surrounding foreign applicants who wish to apply to the program. So we understand that a language exam is used for anyone– is needed, such as the TOEFL or IELTS exam– excuse me– is needed for any student who did not earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States.

But this student is asking, if they took English 111 and 12 at Northern Virginia Community College, would they still need the TOEFL or English exams? It’s my understanding that it’s a university policy that would be needed, but Dr. Coyne, do you have anything else to supplement that?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, I think that’s right. So the way this works, without getting into the nitty-gritty, is the university– so the highest level of university administrators set rules for international students, and then all departments have to follow them. And so if you– to get any specifics– I’m going to come back to your question– but to get any information on that, if you just go to George Mason’s website, you can find requirements for international students.

And I believe that the requirement is if you’ve gotten a degree from a accredited university in the United States, then that’s waived. But otherwise, you need to take it, I believe. Now I’d have to check on your question about the– I think it was Northern Virginia courses you took, and whether those counted, before I answered with certainty.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Yeah, in my experience in admissions, it has not waived the requirement, but I just want to reassure you, with these international questions, I will give you my email, and of course, we’ll send you the whole checklist so that you can see what is required. We love to welcome international students. There are some strict requirements. And now, through 2022, they’re also letting students do the Duolingo, which is a much easier exam that you can take from home. So I’ll definitely send you those resources if you can type in your email for me.

And another student is asking, is there any opportunity for independent studies in this program?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yes so that’s a common question I get right now there is not, and we don’t have the– the reason why is we don’t have the faculty resources to do it in a way that would be appropriate. And by that I mean, dedicate the time necessary to give you the attention you would need. The reason being that an independent study is basically a customized class between a student and a faculty member, and that takes a lot of resources in terms of faculty commitment and student commitment, I should say. And because we are unable to offer that in a way that is of high quality across the entire student body, we do not offer that.

STEPHANIE RACINE: And Dr. Coyne– we do want to be respectful of everyone’s lunch break here– but we’re down to our last couple of questions. One I know we’ve covered quite a bit, but the student was asking, will the instructors post their synchronous hours at the beginning of the class on the syllabus or something? And I know you made it sound like also there’s flexibility there, but do they typically do that, or do they kind of just give advance notice during the course?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: When you say do they do that, do they post the hours, is that what you mean?

STEPHANIE RACINE: Correct. Will the instructors typically post the hours of the synchronous sessions at the beginning of the class or beforehand, will they let the students know? Or will they find out during the class?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Oh no, they are part of the syllabus. They’re built into the syllabus. And so let me provide an example. I’m pulling up the syllabus, and I can’t share my screen, but gender economics, which is one of our electives. So my colleague Johanna Mollerstrom developed this course. She has office hours by appointment, so that means you can contact her– this is on the syllabus– you can contact her if you have a one off issue that you want to talk to her about.

Now she has the weekly syllabus. Each week– this is something you get at the beginning of the class, of course– all of the materials laid out here. So week one– all the resources you need to read. And she has a week one synchronous session at 8:00 PM. This one was in January with the instructor, and the details are on here. And then later on, let’s see, in week four, she has another synchronous session to meet with students in the class. And I think there’s a third one later on. So she had three in week eight.

So she had three spread out, and these were part of the syllabus, built in to it. And again, professors differ in the regularity of those, but that would be an example. And so you would get the syllabus and see what was on there and the dates.

And again, if there’s major issues and you have to miss one or something happens– at least myself and the colleagues I know who are involved in this are quite flexible and understanding. Again, we understand our student body. We understand one of the reasons people select this program is because of the flexibility. And so I just want to reiterate that.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Thank you. And then in the chat, a question came up– and I also promised I would ask this for a student that I spoke with earlier this week– but suppose an online student lives in the local area, and they see a campus-based class that they would like– maybe it’s an elective or something else. Is there any opportunity for that student to take the class, or must they stick with the online curriculum?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: That’s a very good question, and a common one. And the answer is they can’t. So even though the degrees are equivalent, the way the university treats the two programs is as distinct tracks based on modality. And so there’s a online modality, on-the-ground modality, and once you select into one or the other, you can’t move back and forth between the two.

And so if you select into the online one, then you stick with that. If you select into the on-the-ground one, you stick with that. And so the online students– excuse me, the one-the-ground students also cannot take online classes. And so if you’re in the area, and the on-the-ground program is something that interests you, think about it. Look into what that involves. Of course, one of the big differences– you need to be in class. But you might like other aspects of that, and really comes down to individual preference. But thank you for the question.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Sure, and just to clarify, though, the degree will not say whether you did it online or on-campus. And it’s, as you mentioned earlier, the same accreditation, the same quality of the degree. It’s just a matter of personal preference and what you’re looking to learn and which format you would like to take the classes. Is that correct, Dr. Coyne?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yep, exactly correct. You will get a diploma from George Mason University. Your transcripts will say Master’s in Economics. It’s not like tiers or classes or anything like that, in terms of first class, second class. They’re all the same. It’s fully accredited. And it’s designed based on our on-the-ground program, and so the core classes are the same– not exactly the same, of course, because the modality, but the idea is the same in terms of the structure.

It’s more so that moving between the two gets too complicated for the registrar’s office for matters of accreditation and for taking the capstone course or the comprehensive exam because, for instance, the comprehensive exam for the on-the-ground students is made up of professors that teach the on-the-ground courses, and the capstone is designed by people involved in the online program, and so we want to keep them compartmentalized to make sure we’re offering each kind of group of students what they want to satisfy their preferences, all towards achieving the same degree.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Great, and we’re down to our last two questions here, but before we go there, just to clarify– on your degree, it doesn’t say on-campus or online– on the transcript or degree?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: No, you’re getting– apologize if I was unclear. From the perspective of George Mason University, the Department, and anyone outside the university, these are an MA in economics. That’s what you’re receiving and that’s what you are considering.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Yes, thank you. And then transfer credits– do you accept them, and if so, how many?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yes, we do accept transfer credits. And so, again, this is a perfect example, so thank you– whoever asked that, thank you. This is a very good instance of how the programs aligned. So what I mean by that is that just like our on-the-ground students can transfer credits, so too can online students.

Now there’s rules, and the easiest way to do this is you can either email me, or if you just google, it’s on the Department of Economics web page. There’s a section on there called Transfer Reduction Waiver, and it’s about credits, and this goes for all of our graduate students, which is why those general policies hold. It tells you what you can transfer in and the requirements.

And one thing I should mention to you is– and this goes for our on-the-ground too, it’s a department rule– you cannot transfer in the micro and macro courses. So you have to take Micro 1, Micro 2, and Macro through the program, even if you’ve taken them elsewhere, even if you’ve gotten As, and that is because those are foundational to the program, and we want make sure that you’re exposed to the GMU approach to those topics.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Wonderful. And one last question that I promised I would ask a student is, could you revisit the new elective or electives. Because some people joined us late– I know you mentioned market process. Could you give us the formal name of the new electives or elective class?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, of course. Thank you for asking. So there’s two rolling out. One is designed by me. And so it’s called Market Process Theory. And for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, institutions, new institutional economics, Austrian economics, you will get exposed to all that in that class.

And the other elective rolling out this summer is Comparative Economic Systems. That is designed and going to be taught by my colleague Peter Boettke, and that will focus on institutions, development, and the history of economic systems– so going back to the Soviet Union and its collapse up through the rise of, of course, kind of global capitalism, and talking about issues related to that and economic development and institutional economics. We don’t have a development course under that name, but Comparative covers many of the topics that typically fall under the purview of development economics, but also with a blending of institutional economics as well.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Excellent. Well, I love the fact that this program continues to stay current and with the latest research, and we thank you so much for joining us today Dr. Coyne. I know that people have to get back to work. I will stay on to answer any admissions-specific questions, and for those of you who posted your email in the chat, we will most definitely reach out to you with all of the information about international enrollment, the admissions requirements, and everything else.

I’m also going to advance the slide here so that we can give you our admissions phone number as well as the link to the application. So if you look here at the slide. Sorry about that– you will see our phone number here. And you’re welcome to call us. We usually have someone stay late because we know that you all work during the day, so we should have someone here until 8:00 PM today.

Also, we are still accepting applications for the April 25th start date. You still have time to submit your admissions items. And it’s actually a great idea to get started on your file in the summer. Some of our applicants have told us it’s a nice time to get started because we tend to have fewer applicants– a lot more individualized attention during the admissions process. And for those of you who are using calendar-based employer assistance for your tuition, it’s a great way to make sure that you use it up before the end of the year. So the link to apply is there. The phone number is there if you have questions about admissions.

And Dr. Coyne, is there anything else that you would like to share with the group?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: I just want to thank you again for taking the time to talk to me and explore the program and think about it and in just a second, what Stephanie said, let us know if you have any questions, and I wish you the best of luck in whatever path you pursue. So thank you all very much and have a wonderful day.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Well, thank you, and the attendees thank you as well Dr. Coyne. And I saw just a few admissions items pop up, so feel free to leave and get back to your day Dr. Coyne, but I’ll be happy to tackle these admissions questions about deadlines here. And we thank you again for joining us everyone, and we do hope to hear from you soon.

So the deadline for the next semester– we’re going to take applications right up until the beginning of April. However, we do have rolling admissions, so the sooner you complete your file, the sooner you’ll have your decision. All of the documents, including the transcripts, are uploaded electronically, and the recommendations as well.

So Tony, if you’re not already working with an admissions advisor, just please either type your email in the chat or give us a call at the phone number listed here on the slide. We’ll send you the deadline. We’ll send you all of the admissions items. We’ll give you updates on your file. We also make sure that there’s space in the classes for those who are accepted, and we handle your registration. And you would still have time to fill out the 21-22 FAFSA form if you’re using financial aid student loans as well.

We always like to cut off admissions at least one month prior to the desired start date. We’d much rather have you submit your applications long before then, just so that you’ll have a very positive student experience and get everything situated earlier, but I would leave the fall application no later than July 1 for the deadline.

There may be a little bit of leeway after that date, but fall is our most popular term, so in order to ensure that you get your decision in plenty of time, your financial aid squared away if you’re using it, and everything else, we’re actively accepting applications for both summer and fall. So please don’t leave it until the month before the class starts. Try to get your file complete earlier, and we’ll have a team that will work with you during the admissions process to make sure that you have a really good student experience going back to school.

And so I see, Quinn, we got your email address, and Narayan, of course, we’ll send you all of the information about the language exams. And I think you asked a question about the NACES accredited evaluation agencies, so yes, you can use another NACES accredited evaluation agency other than WES, but the very important thing to know about that is that if you use anything other than the WES ICAP evaluation, we’ll need you to have an official copy of your transcript in English sent along with the evaluation.

So the WES ICAP does that all in one. They’ll send us the transcript and the evaluation in one, so that saves you time and money. But if you use another agency like ECE or any other NACES agency, just make sure it’s a course by course evaluation, and be prepared to have the official transcript sent to us in English, and that would have to be official as well, OK?

And yeah, I see a lot of emails coming in, so we’ll definitely get you that information. And we’re so glad to have you all here today. Again, if you have any questions, if I missed anything, in either of the chats, feel free to give us a call here at 703-348-5006, and we will be happy to assist you.

But thank you so much for taking your lunch break with us, and we hope you have a great day. And a recording of this will be made available that you can watch after today as well. Thanks again, and we hope to hear from you all soon.

MS in Learning Design and Technology Transcript

LAUREN: All right good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining us for our virtual open house today for our Masters of Learning Design and Technology and the e-learning certificate program here. We’re excited to go over the program and get started. But we’ll just wait a few more minutes to allow the other attendees to trickle on in. For the time being to make sure you can hear us clearly, just put your name in the chat and where you are joining us from.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : OK I see we have Lara from Springfield, Jennifer from Leesburg. And Elizabeth, where are you joining us from? Harrisonburg. Is that Harrisonburg, Pennsylvania?


SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: Virginia? OK. There too. Kathleen from Alexandria. OK. Good.

NADA DABBAGH: That’s where James Madison is.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: I guess we can start the recording.

LAUREN: OK sounds good it looks like the majority is with us. Well thank you everyone for joining us today. We are excited to get this started. So my name is Lauren, and I’m an online admissions representative here for the Online Learning Design and Technology Program, along with the standalone e-learning certificate program. I’m here as a resource to give any information, answer questions, and just walk you through the entire application and admissions process if that is something you are interested in moving forward with. Just before we get into a little bit of housekeeping here, there is a question mark in the chat box here. So feel free to input any questions or chat within the screen.

However, we won’t address those until the end of the virtual open house here today. Right so a quick overview of what we will be discussing this afternoon is just more on the Learning Design and Technology Master’s Program here that we offer here at George Mason along with the e-learning certificate program. Here joining us today is program director, Dr. Nada Dabbagh, and associate professor, Dr. Shahron Williams. So Dabbagh, do you want to start off with introducing yourself?

NADA DABBAGH: Sure, sure. And we also have Dr. Brenda Bannan with us and hopefully Dr. Douglas Wilson will also be joining us soon. So thank you, Lauren, as you can see from this slide. Thank you so much for joining us during your lunch break hopefully you’re having a tasty lunch. And you see the four main full time faculty members of the Learning Design and Technology Program. We have an awesome Master’s of Science Learning Design and Technology Program. And as Lauren mentioned, we also have a standalone e-learning certificate, and we also have an opportunity for you to do both bundled together, which will give you some really cool and amazing credentialing.

So I’m Nada Dabbagh. I have been at Mason, this is my 22nd year and it’s been really wonderful to be at this University. We are always innovating, and moving forward, and integrating all kind of new skills in everything that we do. So it’s been a great ride. I am the director of the Division of Learning Technology. So we have also other programs residing in this division. But you are here today to learn about the Learning Design and Technology Program.

So as I mentioned, I’ve been here for this is my 22nd year, and I’ve seen this program really evolve and stay with the most cutting edge trends in our field. And my research is really sort of grounded or steeped in the learning sciences. So I like to do research at the intersection of technology, and pedagogy, and instructional strategies. And actually I do have– I do a lot of research also in online learning, and this is sort of my newest book in online learning and how to use technology in designing training and online interactions. And I also am very interested in personal learning environments or using technology to support personalized learning, and also in creating sort of this learning ecosystem at your organization or place of work that includes opportunities for your learners to have agency in the learning process, and to be able to learn at their own pace, and learn in a way that is most customizable, relevant, and authentic to them.

So thank you for the opportunity to introduce my work.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : OK I’ll pick it up. I’m Shahron Williams van Rooij. There will be a spelling test on that name at the end of this session. I’m an associate professor in the program, but also the academic program coordinator for Learning Design and Technology, the Master’s program, and in charge of the e-learning graduate certificate. In other words dealing with the business administrative issues associated with the program as well as teaching. I’ve been at Mason, this is my 15th year. And my role makes a lot of sense because before I came to Mason I was in the corporate world working in product management and in project management.

So that is my focus, has also become my focus in research dealing with workplace learning, learning as tied to performance improvement in the workplace, and of course project management methods. My book focuses on the business issues associated with learning design and technology. So if you have a chance, order that book as well along with Dr. Dabbagh’s book. So I’ll now turn it over to Dr. Bannan.

BRENDA BANNAN: Good afternoon. I’m Brenda Bannan, and I am a professor now, not associate, we need to fix the slide in design and technology. And I am the old lady of the bunch. I’ve been here 26 years and counting. So Mason is a very special place where you’re getting to know a little bit about us before you may join, but we really want to get to know about you and your professional interests, and where they lie, and help you in your career. So our expertise just samples different areas of the field. Mine is I’m currently co-directing the Center for Advancing Human Machine Partnerships. And in that role through my research, talking about research now, not teaching, is really– but both of them intersect, is more about how to think about learning analytics, artificial intelligence, what are some of the areas that we can think about using emerging technologies and some current techniques in order to have generate new insights about learning.

So my area goes into mobile behavioral analytics. I’ve done things in team based training using sensors. I’ve done different types of areas of work that involve different emerging technologies, learning analytics, and thinking about learning and performance in different contexts. So each of us have our little niche and our little slices. I’ll give you a flavor for Doug. Doug is the newest member of our faculty. He is fantastic at what he does. He teaches a lot of the initial courses in our program, the basic instructional design and the learning series course. But all of us have had a hand in designing and redesigning recently all of our courses for online delivery so they’re very up to date.

And Doug is fantastic at facilitating. He teaches many of the courses from beginning courses for us, and he has interest in online learning and assistive technology in his areas of interest. So we’re happy to talk more but that’ll do it for now about us.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Yeah before we go to the next slide. Why don’t we allow our attendees to say a quick word about themselves. I’ll just go down the list that we have starting with Amanda Paldao. Amanda, tell us a little bit about yourself and why you’re interested in this program. Amanda, are you there? They might want to prefer to chat.

NADA DABBAGH: They’re not allowed to unmute.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : They’re not allowed to unmute.

NADA DABBAGH: Unless Lauren gives them the ability because–

BRENDA BANNAN: Why don’t just have them type it in the chat. That might be easier for them to manage.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : OK, let’s see what we’ve got in the chat. A little bit about yourselves in the chat. And while we’re doing that, let’s go on and then I’ll come back to the chat. Oh Amanda says my Master’s is teaching, and I own a tutoring company currently. Excellent. Very, very good OK, anyone else? Elizabeth.

BRENDA BANNAN: Welcome, [INAUDIBLE] from Dubai, 15 years teaching, welcome.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Excellent. Kathleen is an elementary school teacher for 16 years and interested in enhancing online teaching. OK, anyone else want to volunteer? Lara has a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, 10 years of teaching. OK, fantastic. What else have we got? Elizabeth, a former nonprofit executive director. Cool. Master’s in Leadership Studies. Teaching in that field at Eastern Mennonite University. Also a Master’s in English, and I’m interested in teaching in that field as well. And interested in finding more online learning engagement with my students.

NADA DABBAGH: Then you should get my book.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Shameless plug from Dr. Dabbagh.


SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Anyone else want to share?

NADA DABBAGH: Or when you take the course with me you will get the book anyway.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : I have it written down, cool. Jennifer has been training and designing curriculum for four years. I’m excited about learning more about how to incorporate learning technologies in the virtual classrooms. Correct place. I think we have everybody’s feedback. Oh Sam, an instructional designer in health care with over 20 years and learning and development across multiple industries and looking to add to my knowledge and skills.

BRENDA BANNAN: Perfect. You’re just the type of students that we have.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: Yeah. I think that’s everyone so we can go to the next slide. OK. Our program focuses on adult learners but there are multiple titles. If you look at some of the job advertisements that are out there, anything ranging from instructional designer to learning architect if they’re talking about designers and developers. For consultants, there’s a myriad of titles learning strategy consultant, educational software consultant, even corporate trainers come to our program. And of course at the managerial level and that goes for our last participant who’s been in the business a long time.

If you want to be the Director of Learning and Development or Director of Training and Performance, this program will help you prepare as well. So unlike a K-12 teacher which has a single title, teacher of math or teacher of science or particular grade, there are a variety of titles and descriptions of what it is that we do. Next slide, please. The practical side of it. Basically how much money can you make in our business. is an excellent website for gauging what the market is offering for particular occupations.

It’s based upon national data rather than regional data, so salaries in certain parts of the US are much lower than in other parts of the US. So these are national averages. At a minimum right out of the gate, you’d be making above $50,000. If you’ve got more experience, the average is $75,000. In the DMV, that’s this DMV metro area, the salaries are much higher. If you’re living in Paducah, Kentucky, they will be lower. But that’s just to give you a flavor of the kind of money you can earn in our field. Next slide, please.

For those who are interested, PayScale has a career path planner. So if you start out as a designer there are several directions you can go, and it provides salaries for each of those descriptions. So if you’re interested in being a training manager from a senior instructional designer, you can view the salaries. Next slide, please. I’m going to hand it off to Dr. Dabbagh to talk about those who have hired our graduates.

NADA DABBAGH: Thank you, Shahron. Also, as Dr. Williams van Rooij just ushered us through those slides, this program is unique in that most of the programs in universities across the nation combine the K-12 integrating technology into K-12 teaching and learning, as well as the instructional design, user experience, design part into one program. What we have done very successfully, yes, I think Larry you will have access to the slides. OK. Yeah, Lauren is saying yes.

So what we have done successfully at George Mason University in the Division of Learning Technology because there’s a huge demand for instructional designers working in nonprofits as you could see here like the Smithsonian or the National Geographic Society, as well as corporate performance oriented workplace learning environments like government contractors like Battelle and Bixal, and Booz Allen Hamilton, and SAIC, and ManTech. So almost 80% of our students that graduate from this program already are working as instructional designers, or UX designers, or learning experience designers in nonprofit government or corporate settings, but they come to us to sort of formalize their learning. And so as you could see that is kind of why we differentiate the learning technologies in schools program from the Learning Design and Technology Program that you all are interested in.

As my colleague Dr. Bannan said, the teaching experience that you have is huge. It will help you tremendously flourish and succeed in this program because we want people. That’s how we all got started. We were teaching or designing training somewhere some time. And now we come to formalize how do we do this from an instructional design perspective, from a grounded theory perspective, from a learning science perspective so you could stand by your designs. And those are some examples of the companies that hire our students, or our students come to us already working on those companies, and then they get promoted.

And the other thing I want to say is we have a great LISTSERV, and you can subscribe to this LISTSERV even if you are not yet part of our program or a student. We really have a lot of partners in the DMV area as Sharon mentioned. And they funnel all of their instructional design positions through us, the faculty, and we in turn then post them on the IT LISTSERV. We call it an IT LISTSERV, but you know about two to three times a week you will see opportunities for higher for instructional designers at companies like these and beyond. Thank you.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS: Next slide, please Oh, Dr. Bannan, you want to take this?

BRENDA BANNAN: Sure. Our Masters of Science, you can choose to do just the Master of Science or you can choose to do the Master of Science and the e-learning graduate certificate. There is also an option to do an e-learning graduate certificate only if you just want to upgrade some of your more tech related skills. Even though we do teach some concepts about the field in the e-learning graduate certificate, it is primarily some of the most popular key software like Adobe, or we have many different types of courses in that e-learning graduate certificate. But together it’s kind of a powerful type of recipe because actually the e-learning certificate courses kind of double dip for the Master’s program. So even though the Master’s is 30 credits, the e-learning graduate certificate kind of folds in to the Master’s so you can achieve both within about two years with summer, summer courses.

So students choose different options for different things. If they don’t want to commit to a full blown Master’s or they want to try a few courses, they may do or 15 credit e-learning graduate certificate first. But we actually encourage you, if you are interested in the Master’s program, to apply for that first so that then any of those e-learning certificate courses fold right in, as I said, and count towards your elective credits. And it’s still they’re both 30 credits but you get that distinction of having the e-learning graduate certificate, which is a separate degree, matriculated degree. It’s a secondary program. So it’s a very good option if you want to kind of say I know the best on the master side of how people learn.

I know how to apply it. I know the processes through the Master’s program. And then I’m up to date on a lot of the current software that’s used in the field. And so the Master’s and the certificate kind of give you both of those credibility. So people choose for different reasons but that’s kind of the gist of it. It basically takes about two years, depending on your trajectory. And some students choose not to take courses in the summers. Some students for whatever reason you can step out for one semester and then come back in. But typically if you continue all the way through each semester, it should take you about two years part time, our courses, I don’t know Shahron if there’s another slide on our courses. And this the 7 and 1/2 week format, if I should stop right there?

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : I don’t recall. Let’s go to the next slide and see.


SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : I know the link to the site is there. No, go back please.

BRENDA BANNAN: So our courses are 7 and 1/2 week intensive typically 3 credit courses although in the graduate certificate you will find some 2 credit courses that are less time than 7 and 1/2 weeks. And what we recommend and what works for this program is it’s kind of like taking a traditional semester and splitting it in half. So we have a session one and then a session two. And each of those is 7 and 1/2 weeks. What this is allows you as a working professional all of our courses are asynchronous in nature with an occasional synchronous meeting that’s typically optional, but with the professor, and certainly you can access us at any time synchronously in meetings and advising. However the program itself, these two we have in one course each session. So you would take in the fall of 2022 you would take one course in the first 7 and 1/2 weeks, and then a second 3 credit course in the second 7 and 1/2 weeks. That allows you to focus on one course at a time, and some of these courses are somewhat intense.

And so we start off a little bit more individually, and then towards the end of the program, you’ll do more team based activities. But that allows you to really hone in on an asynchronous, you know, which requires a commitment each week. And then they’re very well designed, they’re very well codified and paced. So they’re very doable with for working professionals, but it allows you to focus on one course at a time for each half semester, 7 and 1/2 week session.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Thank you, doctor. Thank you Dr. Bannan. Next slide, please. Dr. Dabbagh, do you want to talk about the competencies?

NADA DABBAGH: Sure. I just want to add also that all of our courses are instructor facilitated. So it’s not like you’re going to take any self-paced courses on your own, no. We all the four of us teach specific courses and we have certain adjuncts who are credentialed and very well known in their field, practitioners that teach some of our elective courses as well. So you will be in good hands and they’re all, even though the courses are 100% online as Dr. Bannan mentioned, we all facilitate the courses ourselves. So our program is aligned with the ibstpi competencies and standards. So ibstpi is the International Board of Standards for Training Performance and Instruction.

So again, this program is geared towards people who want to work in performance improvement settings, workplace learning, and with adult learners as Dr. Williams van Rooij mentioned. We have as you could see here five categories of competencies that each of our courses aligns with. And every time you take a course, you will see which standards or competencies within each of these five different categories of competencies the course objectives or outcomes align with. So we do a great job in ensuring that our courses are aligned with the standards for performance and improvement for now, which is what we follow the ibstpi competencies.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Thank you Dr. Dabbagh. Next slide, please. OK, supporting your success. As online students, you have several areas to support you. First, there are the admissions representatives, like Lauren who’s on the line with us who can tell you everything about the process involved with applying to the program, what documents need to be submitted, when they need to be submitted, and so forth, both for US students, but also for international students what extra steps are involved for international students. Once you have applied and been admitted, you have your enrollment coordinators. These are the folks who make sure that your student records get updated, that you are in our system, and that you are ready for registration in our courses.

The third support area are the academic advisors, namely the faculty. Once you said, “Yes, I’m coming to the program” you make an appointment with us, and we build a program plan for you so that which courses work for you, and when. Our program is not a fixed sequence for everybody, although everybody begins with the same introductory courses. After that, the trajectories may vary. So for example, you may have an employer that requires you take articulate very quickly so we can build that into your program plan. Or someone demands that you do project management at a certain point of time. So we build individual program plans for each student admitted to our program.

And of course your program plan can change over time. Life happens. So you may need to change your program plan and we are there to work with you on how to update that program plan. The fourth area of support are this is what we call the success coaches. Have a choice on how you want to enroll each semester. You can do it yourself or you can have what we call auto enroll. What that means is the success coach gets a copy of her program plan, sees what your plan is, and each semester registers you for classes so you don’t have to go through the registration process on your own. They also send you reminders about when registration takes place or when the deadlines are for applying for graduation, and those kinds of things.

So there are four different areas to help you complete your program in a timely fashion and with the success that we all want you to have. Next slide, please. OK we’ll stop talking and we’ll open the floor for question. Please type your questions in the chat box and I will read it out for everyone so that everyone can share with the answers. We already have in the chat–

NADA DABBAGH: They can unmute Lauren, or it’s not possible for them to unmute and talk it out?

LAUREN: Yeah I’m unable to unmute.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Yeah this was set up as a webinar, not as a meeting so they can’t. Yeah. So please type your questions into the chat.

LAUREN: To start us off, Williams, if you don’t mind, I do have a question.


LAUREN: Some of our students do have a lot of fears with online education overall. So how does the faculty maintain that communication with students? And I know you talked about the opportunity to network as well.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : OK I’ll start and then other folks will jump in. As Dr. Dabbagh mentioned earlier, you are not on your own. The courses themselves are instructor facilitated which means we are actively engaged with you throughout. So even though we’re not all together at the same time in the same place, your instructor is always involved. And that interaction, through our discussion board which gets to [INAUDIBLE] question, allows you to interact with other students in your courses. Group discussions, whether in small groups as well as in larger groups, are an integral part of all of our courses.

So you can’t lurk and hide. You are required to interact as part of the learning experience because many of our students have very rich work experiences that are helpful to others who have different kinds of experience. So as I say, sharing is caring through our discussions, through the few secretive sessions that we have, and the variety of tools that we have. So it’s not just the threaded discussions. So for example we use Horizons, which is one of the mechanisms that I use for interaction. There’s also video interaction where you can exchange videos.

So yes, there are a lot of media that we use to interact with other students as well as with the instructor. Gone are the days where you hide and you’re pretty much on your own. Brenda or Nada, do you want to add to that?

BRENDA BANNAN: I would just say that we try to break it up, we try to make it fresh. Each course is designed differently even though some of the interface is similar so that once you take the first course you know how to kind of navigate around the basics of our courses. However, each of them have different [INAUDIBLE] So for example, in the learning theories course, the IT 704, it’s a lot about who you are as an adult learner, and connecting the current constructs about how people learn as an adult, not pedagogy but what’s called andragogy. And so these are applicable to the situations you find yourself in if you’re in an educational situation, or a training situation, or in many different contexts. You know it could be military, could be non-profit, could be corporate, and many others.

So we do a lot of really breaking it up and thinking about different strategies for different courses, and sometimes you will have individual interaction. As an individual student, sometimes you will have team based interaction. But it really is thought through very well and the professor one of us or one of our colleagues are front and center and continually interacting with you, either by video, by content, by discussion, by Threadit, all types of tools that Shahron spoke about. So there’s lots of interactivity in these courses.

NADA DABBAGH: I will add I will add that as Dr. Bannan mentioned, in the first year you will take, I mean I don’t see a list of our courses on the slides. But you can see that on our website in the first year you will be taking the basic core courses, for example, the EDIT 705 is all about all the instructional design models, including Addie and Agile instructional design. And that in every course that you take there is a design component because we’re all about design, learning design, learning systems design. So in every course that you take there is a design component. And our program is sort of theory to practice. It’s an applied approach, a practitioner applied approach.

So even though there’s a lot of theory about how people learn as Dr. Bannan mentioned adult learners and philosophies of learning, you get to apply those principles and theories within the project. So for example in the first course that you take there’s a teamwork. You work in groups, you choose the authentic projects that you want to work on. In the second year, you will take the UX design course sequence that Dr. Bannan has designed and that is also very teamwork heavy so you also work on real world projects in teams. And so that definitely allows you to interact with other students. We also have in the courses that I teach, for example and some of the other courses, there will also be a design component, but it may be more on an individual basis, but you can come up. And every course, we don’t do exams, we don’t do anything like that.

There is always a project based deliverable. All of our courses are project based and you get to work with other people from the different industries within your courses, which is great. We also have a mid program point 1 credit course and an end program point 1 credit course where you get to network and learn about all the new trends in our field, and network with other people to sort of build a niche for yourself and do your own identity branding, and get ready to assume a new job if you’re shifting from K-12 to workplace corporate instructional design to get yourself a great job. Or if you are going into a different area of our field, these two courses help you understand reflect on your own strengths and you do assess your skills in the field.

And then you reflect on those skills, you come up with an action plan, a goal statement, and an action plan. And in the final course that you take in the program you come up with what we call a personal identity package. I’m getting ready to teach this course this week for our students who will be graduating this May. And this really sort of allows you to reflect on your own skills and figure out what do you want to do in the field as an instructional designer.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : I’ll address Elizabeth’s question. Elizabeth asks she says I’m wondering about the technology side of the program, what level of technology skills the students need to have to enter the program. If you know Microsoft Office and you know how to use a browser, you’re good to go. There is no other technical knowledge required. Gone are the days where you had to know how to do programming because all of the course ware development tools that are out there today use a basic Windows interface. Wizard wing. What you see is what you get. So if you know how to use a browser and you know how to use Microsoft Office, you’re good to go.

This in a similar vein or similar to what Dr. Dabbagh started to talk about, Jennifer asks can you talk about what type of portfolio we might have by the end of the program. Dr. Dabbagh would you like to address that?

NADA DABBAGH: Sure. As I mentioned, [INAUDIBLE] in every course, there’s a design element or a prototype of a learning design that you have done, either with colleagues, with your peers in a group project, or individually. And so what you get the chance to do in that final 701 course that I just mentioned is you can put together a digital portfolio of all of the design elements that you’ve done across all of your coursework in the program and make it marketing ready. And that’s kind of what we help you to do is to assemble your digital portfolio of all the artifacts that you’ve designed in the courses through the program to showcase what you can do, what type of training you can design, and how are you applying all the concepts of adult learning and instructional design in your coursework.

So yes, absolutely. And as we showed before you have the ibstpi competency. So every course that you take has a slice of those ibstpi competencies. So at the end of the program, you can actually reflect on the ibstpi competencies and reflect on the design and development skills that you have acquired in the program through the coursework, and through teamwork, and interaction, and all that.

BRENDA BANNAN: I would just add to that basically have adult learning principles that you are applying, have the basic instructional systems design process. You learn about user experience design, design thinking. You will be able to speak very intelligently about the emerging technologies in our field, including learning analytics, virtual reality, augmented reality, mobile learning, all types of flavors of emerging technologies, but with a really good understanding about how adults learn and training and performance. The business skills of our field as well. Have I missed anything?

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : No, you’ve got it.

NADA DABBAGH: The theory of course, the grounded designs, the pedagogical models, like when do I design a community of practice versus a goal based approach versus, so you get a lot of the high level design pedagogies as well as the applied versions as Dr. Bannan mentioned.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : One other question in the chat comes from [INAUDIBLE] He asks, what type of technology do we need to do the projects and use the programs? Is a laptop suitable? In terms of hardware, yes a laptop is certainly suitable. You get the configuration requirements for all of your hardware publicly available sent to you so you know that you have enough memory in your laptop that you have the most up to date browser versions, whether you’re using an iOS system or a Windows system, both work as well as in the program. In terms of the software for the specific course ware packages such as Articulate and Captivate, you can use the trial versions for the courses.

If your employer already has one of these packages, of course, you can use your work version, but you are not required to buy any software.

BRENDA BANNAN: I would just add that thinking about the constructs and the processes that are in our program and who our students are, we get many, many students who are from the training field from currently teaching as Dr. Dabbagh mentioned and are making a transition in their career. Many, many students who are interested in really bolstering their knowledge about online learning and virtual learning and virtual delivery. You have here some of the experts in the field. Dr. Dabbagh is one of well-known experts in online learning, and pedagogical and educational strategies. Dr. Williams van Rooij is an expert in corporate environments and the business case for instructional design.

And user experience design is an area that I’m in for many different emerging technologies. And so you get a feel for some of our expertise, but also you walk out very current in our field and being able to transition into many different types of positions. So I just want to make that clear for those that are in the K-12 environment, for those that are transitioning, and those that are in the corporate environment. You’re all in the right place and it all enriches our discussions. You mentioned each course runs roughly seven weeks. You have an idea of how much time is typically spent on the material each week? I’ve been told a good kind of 17 hours is something that’s thrown around that you literally need to kind of allocate in order to, that would be assignments, and reading through, and listening to video lectures, responding to students, all of that packed in.

So it can vary by week. Usually the first two weeks are a little lighter, and then 3 and 4 get a little heavier. And then you have a final project due around that’s introduced typically around week 6 and due in week 7 and half which is sort of 8, week 8, but it’s 7 and 1/2 really. You can pace yourself. It’s not impossible. You need to make a commitment. And so I will tell you that it’s graduate level work it’s a commitment. And so you need to make that commitment, and be ready to respond from the beginning. So I would allocate my courses for example you know typically on Wednesday I will I’ll introduce something on Monday, and then one week and then Wednesday I will ask for a written response or response. And then you reply to some of your peers by Sunday.

A lot of my projects are due on Sunday night at midnight because I know some people really need the weekends so to do those things. So we try to pace it for you as well as possible and it seems to work for our students.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Any other questions? I don’t see anything else in the chat yet.

NADA DABBAGH: I’ll just add that every course you take, as Dr. Bannan mentioned, we streamline them so they all kind of look the same in the Blackboard. We use the Blackboard LMS system to facilitate all of our courses asynchronously. You get a syllabus that tells you all the technologies that you need to have to be successful in those courses. I mean of course, you do need a reliable internet connection to begin with. And as to the question what technologies do the teams use in the courses that are heavily team oriented and project based, for example, right now we don’t make you pay for anything extra at all. So for example right now in the UX design courses, we are using MURAL, which is a really cool design thinking technology that allows teams to work interactively together to work on UI projects and UX projects.

And all of our courses pretty much start on a Monday and then end on a Sunday so that taking into consideration that on the weekends might be a good time for you to complete your assignments so that you can successfully complete the course. And yeah that’s it.

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Any other questions for us? Then over to you Lauren because I don’t see anything else in the chat.

LAUREN: Yeah, I would just like to thank everyone for joining us today and the faculty as well. Thank you for going into such depth about the program and expectations for our students here. And I did put our phone number into the chat so if you do have any questions about just the application process, requirements, deadlines, anything along those lines, please reach out to us. We’ll be happy to assist you in any way we can to get you started on the program of your interest. Did you have anything else you would like to add today?

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : If you just let folks know when and where this recording will be available for them?

LAUREN: Yeah, so this recording will be available on our website probably within the next two to three days. If you reach out, I can also send you the link directly from our Zoom recording here a little bit earlier as well.

NADA DABBAGH: And the application deadline for summer I believe is May 1st or May 2nd, correct? Or somewhere that first week of May, May 1st Yes. So again if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to any of us. We really look forward to having you in the program. If you think you can start in the summer, we do offer our first two core courses to be offered in the summer so you can get them done in the summer. And in the summer they are also seven weeks, right Shahron? There might be an overlap between one or two of them, and we also have some electives offered right?

SHAHRON WILLIAMS VAN ROOIJ: : Yeah. Yeah that’s about right.

BRENDA BANNAN: And I would just say we love what we do so. We’d love to have you join us. Our students really make it so interesting for us. So please if you would love to join us, we’d love to have you.

LAUREN: Wonderful. Thank you all so much. I’ll end the webinar now. But like I said, for anyone who has any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us. Thank you.

NADA DABBAGH: Thank you everyone. Thanks, bye-bye.


Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology Transcript

SARA FOLEY: So everyone, hi, I’m Sara Foley. I’m one of the admissions advisors here at Mason Thanks for carving out an hour of your day to talk about and listen to Dr. Ahmad and a few of our current students and alumni about our Applied I-O Psychology Program, our MPS.

I think it’s about 7:01, 7:02. Do you want to– should we get the ball rolling, now Dr. Ahmad, or do you want to wait one more minute?

AFRA AHMAD: Well, that sounds good, thank you.

SARA FOLEY: All right, perfect. So this is the introduction and agenda. I know that we have a couple of topics that we’ll hit on. So Dr. Ahmad will introduce herself. We’re going to talk a little bit about GMU’s background, the I-O Program’s background, the student experience, we’re going to go over questions and answers. So feel free to pop them in the chat or ask away during that time.

But yeah. I guess we’ll start, Dr. Ahmad. Go ahead and give us some background into yourself and what you’re like as our program director.

AFRA AHMAD: Good evening, everyone, and welcome. I’m really excited to have you all here tonight. I want to say, you guys are the first time we’re doing this interactive virtual open house. In the past it’s always been webinar-style, which means I can’t see participants, I can’t hear them. I get the questions in the chat, but that’s about it.

So I’m very excited. If you’re able to, I’d love for you to have your cameras on, but if not, I totally understand, I’m always multitasking as well. But it’s really nice to be able to see many of you. And if you have questions, feel free to put them in the chat or raise your hand and you can get off mute, because this is what I want it to be about. I want it to be interactive. I want to hear you, see you, and make sure you feel– or you leave feeling like you’re well-informed to make the next decision.

So as Sara mentioned, we have a couple of things we’re going to be talking about today. First, I’d like to just give you a little bit of background on myself. Some of you have probably seen some videos out there and things, but I am Dr. Afra Ahmad and I’m a longtime native of Northern Virginia. I live in Woodbridge, Virginia, I was born and raised here. Actually, if anyone knows Potomac Mills Mall, I was born at the hospital right next to the mall.

And I went to undergrad at Mason. And then I did a Fulbright Fellowship abroad in the United Arab Emirates. And I returned to Mason for graduate school, for the master’s and PhD, because it has the top-ranked I-O program. It did not make sense to go anywhere else. And I had a great advisor that I was working with, Dr. Eden King, studying diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is my research area of expertise.

So I went to Mason for undergrad, and then after I graduated, I went back abroad for a few years in Dubai teaching in a business school before coming back home to the area and to join George Mason launching and running our fully online program.

Mason has been around for a while for those of you that may not know it. So since 1956. It was the Northern Virginia branch of UVA. And it became an independent institution in 1972. It is the largest public university in Virginia when we talk about any public university. And we do have the Carnegie System classification as an R1 doctoral research university, which is the highest ranking possible.

And we have three campuses in Northern Virginia. For those of you that are familiar, we have Fairfax campus, Arlington, and one in Prince William. And we have a campus in South Korea as well where some of my colleagues teach. And a growing body of online programs just like the one that you guys are applying to.

The I-O program, on-ground I-O PhD and on-ground master’s or MA program was also founded in 1972. And over the years, the I-O faculty members, they have been very prominent, successful in the field as both academics and practitioners. And so what I mean by that is when you pick up and you’re reading about leadership and teams and performance management and even if you’re taking your undergrad classes in the business school or in I-O, you will recognize the several names of our faculty members.

And five of our faculty members associated with our program have held positions as president of our professional organization, which you all should get familiar with and definitely check out their website, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Several of our students have gone on, they’ve gone on to become professors or administrators at top universities and working as internal or external consultants or in a variety of positions and capacities at reputable organizations all around the world.

And currently we have a large body of full-time faculty members, and we are the largest I-O program in the country. So I’ve looked up the statistics and that is true.

Let me just check the chat box. OK, that was just asking if there was questions coming through. So let me tell you a little bit more about our online program. You guys are looking into applying for the Master’s of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial Organizational Psychology. This program is fully online. And we launched the program in the summer of 2019.

We are very much focused on the scientist practitioner model. And again, as you’re doing your research and due diligence and look into that, what that actually means, we are focused on this not just in our program, but as a field. That is what the heart of I-O psychology is. When you talk about the scientist practitioner model, when you’re thinking about how to– when you’re going into organizations to make them better, you are using science.

Whether you’re producers of that knowledge by running studies within your own organization, collecting data from employees, administering surveys, like organizational climate surveys, and then going back to the stakeholders to make recommendations, you could either be producing that knowledge or you could even be consumers of that knowledge because you’re going to be figuring out, when you make your recommendations to the organization, it needs to be grounded in scientific evidence. And not just your hunch that oh, you think they should do xyz, but it’s based on science and it’s based on evidence.

So when you are in our program, you get training on this scientist practitioner model to make sure you can consume and understand the science that’s out there and the research that’s out there and be able to apply it to the different tasks you’d be doing.

So you will be prepared for a wide variety of industries and positions. So when you are doing a job search or looking into job titles, one place I tell folks to start is looking at O*NET, it’s a website. Maybe, Melissa, you can put it in the chat for us. But you can look into O*NET. You would type in industrial organizational psychology and you may do a job search looking for an I-O position.

But that’s not it. The other thing you’re going to notice that O*NET outlines is a variety of job titles. And it may be consultant, data analyst, HR specialist, performance management analyst, recruitment selection officer, whatever– I mean, there’s a wide variety of positions you would be able to apply to with a degree in I-O psychology. So you would need to look into that and see what options you have.

Sorry, that was my five-year-old sneaking to get her iPad, because she knows that mommy’s on, she’s distracted. So yes, you would be looking into all the different types of jobs you’d be able to apply to now. Some of the major activities that you would be doing in the program is, first and foremost, the coursework. It is a year and a half of coursework. And what we do is we follow an eight-week modular schedule.

So our on-ground students, they take two classes of semester. Two in the spring, two in the fall. And their courses are about two years long for the on-ground master’s program. You guys are an accelerated program. You will be taking classes year-round, so you also have a summer term as well. And while you will be taking two classes a semester, you don’t take them at the same time.

We understand the work-life demands that you have, and balancing two classes plus a full-time job for many of you would be very daunting. So instead of having two classes over a 15, 16-week time period, we have focus one class at a time. So you take the first class of the term. Like we’re just wrapping up spring session 1, and that was eight weeks. And then that class ends on Sunday night. Monday morning, we dive into spring session 2. And that’s how you get your two classes a term.

And since we’re talking about schedules, I do want you to know that students they come in, it’s a cohort style. So we have students coming into spring, the summer, and the fall. And students love staying with their cohorts and making those connections because they create study groups, they like to know what partners are going to work on for their projects. And as I said, the classes are back to back to back.

So like you have the spring classes 2 that you will take in the spring term. Then we dive straight into summer. Then you get a one-week break in August. And then you dive into your fall classes, and then you get two to three-week break and winter break and then you’re back on campus. So it’s not like on-ground program where you have a two to three-month summer off or you have winter break, which is a month long. That’s just something to be mindful of.

However, if you do need to take a break for personal or professional reasons, we definitely allow that opportunity because we have classes being offered three times a year, students are able to take a break for a term at a time. But I would say a majority, probably 95% stay with their cohorts because they find the benefits and advantages of that. But I just wanted to put that on your radar as you were thinking about how this one and a half year would look like.

And each course, we do have applied projects and assessments. And the way the course is laid out is it is a asynchronous program, which means you could be successful doing everything asynchronously. However, we do have a strong synchronous component as well, and I will tell you, that our students who are thriving and being very successful in our program and taking advantage of all the opportunities our program has to offer, they do engage with the synchronous component.

And what that means is, faculty have optional office hours every week. And what I mean by optional, that means that you don’t get a great penalty if you don’t show up. However, in our program, it’s a strong culture and climate for students to show up. So I’m teaching the research methods and practicum course now, and across the two sections, I have, what, probably 34 students, and on a given week, 20 show up to office hours.

So it’s not like office hours in undergrad. It is one to two hours a week or more depending on faculty style that faculty are making themselves available for synchronous time. Every faculty runs these office hours differently. Some faculty like to host mini-lectures. Other faculty like to invite guest speakers.

Other faculty set the expectations for the week, go through all the deliverables, making sure the expectations are very clear, outlining some challenges students may have and how to overcome them, and providing some tips and extra support, answering content-related questions, or even providing professional support. So I’m often talking to students about career opportunities and other things.

So these office hours aren’t really office hours like you would think of in undergrad, but really synchronous time that the faculty expert has made themselves available for you that week. And so as I mentioned, the rest of the courses are all asynchronous.

So every week, you will get– when you log into your Blackboard, which is the learning management system that we engage with, you will get an introductory message about the course, you’ll have some short videos, you have all your learning resources, which could be your textbook chapters you need to read, the scholarly articles which will be linked directly to Mason’s library so you can download them, and any supplemental videos and those sort of things.

Then after you’re engaging in the learning, there is– you can go and do a practice exercise. And what that means is just what the word is, practice, without feeling like you’re being graded. You do an exercise and activity to just check your knowledge and comprehension. And it’s usually a self-assessment, automatic feedback involved, but it’s not graded.

You also– then for the more required aspects of that weekly deliverable is you’re going to be demonstrating your engagement with the material. And what that means is there’s discussion boards, because we want you to interact with each other. We believe that it’s a two-way learning process. Yes, you’re learning from us, but you’re also learning from each other.

You’ll notice that the students coming into our program come in with a wealth of experience and expertise. So we like for you all to be engaging with one another. And when you’re engaging with each other, that’s through the discussion board, it’s one way. Then we also have doing applied activities, projects, and exercises.

So actually applying the material you’re learning to different things and tasks that you’d probably experience in the real world. So if you’re taking the recruitment selection class, you would be doing actual job analysis, an actual selection validation study, or in training and training needs assessment, and those sort of things.

A lot of the applied exercises are aimed that you can integrate some of your work experiences, whether you’ve worked in the past or are currently working. Especially for folks that are currently working, it’s a lot easier for them to be able to send the organizational climate survey to two colleagues because they have a full-time job.

Now that doesn’t mean those of you that aren’t working won’t be able to complete this program. You can always rely on partner, family, and friends to support some of that data collection effort, but it obviously makes it easier when you’re able to intertwine your work experiences with what you’re studying in the program.

And finally, we have the capstone experience where students complete an applied research project in the practicum course. So they take research methods, they work with a partner to identify a workplace problem, and see how that workplace problem could be addressed with a research question.

And they go through the entire process of outlining the research question, the hypotheses, doing the literature review, coming up with a questionnaire, and then putting it up on Qualtrics, administering the survey, analyzing the data, and writing up the results. And with the goal of having a white paper, a research paper, and applied presentation. So another way that you’re getting a capstone experience.

And I’m going to come– I see questions coming in, but I have one more slide, so I’m going to come back to that in a second. So a couple of the things that you can expect from the online program here at George Mason University. I obviously recognize that there are other online programs in the country, and especially with the pandemic, growing– there’s– the body of online programs that are growing out there has definitely increased.

So the value of attending George Mason University and obtaining an I-O degree from our school is like no other. I mean, as I mentioned, if you were to look at school rankings, our PhD and doctoral– our doctoral and master’s program on the ground are ranked high in the country, which means that a lot of organizations and ranking systems are very well-familiar with the caliber of students coming into George Mason University.

All of the full-time tenure track faculty teach in our program. That’s an important question to ask when you’re looking into options, is who’s teaching in there? We have a combination of all of our full-time tenure track faculty teaching in our program as well as adjunct faculty who are either alumni or closely associated with the program teaching with us.

And then another thing to look at is the industry and career outlook. So our students have been very successful in gaining internship and full-time employment opportunities. One place to look at this– and Melissa, I’m going to count on you for this as well, is by checking out our I-O student newsletter. It’s a newsletter that’s led by student editors. And in that newsletter, we have a Good News Corner.

The Good News Corner highlights just that, good news that about our students who are publishing, who are presenting, who are getting jobs. And I’d like you to take a look at the last couple of editions and you’d be able to get a sense of where our students are getting jobs, how many of our students are getting jobs. And I will say, that’s probably still underrepresented because I often run into students who tell me they’re doing great things and I’m like, you forgot to send me an email.

But again, just to get an idea or glimpse into the kind of industries and job titles that they’re going into, we make sure we highlight that in the newsletter. So that would be another great place to check out.

And then our online student experience. I do firmly believe in– being a student myself from George Mason University, I was very passionate about making sure I was able to have the culture and climate– the positive culture and climate that I experienced as a graduate student that enabled me to be successful to be able to replicate that in the online environment.

So a couple of the things we do is when you join George Mason University, it’s not like, welcome to our program, go off, it’s asynchronous, see you when we’re done. There’s none of that. You will be joining a live orientation with me where, again, we’ll go through the expectations of the program and make sure you become very acclimated. You will be joining a learning community in Blackboard which has a ton of information about anything and everything you’d want to know about our program.

You would be joining office hours weekly with your instructor. I host monthly calls as the program director on the last Wednesday of the month from 6:00 to 7:00. And these calls, I invite guest speakers, I allow students to connect with other students from other cohorts. So for example, the one from last night, there’s someone who just came in the spring connecting with the student who’s in cohort 5 from a couple of semesters ago. And I have that opportunity for you guys to engage with each other as well as with– I invite guest speakers.

Last month we had speakers from Blacks in I-O Psychology, Latinos in I-O Psychology, and Asians in I-O Psychology come in and talk about their respective groups and membership and the benefits of that. So these monthly calls really serve a professional purpose and personal purpose. I mean, we all need an opportunity and time to connect with each other, your peers as well as with higher administration or program directors to ask questions, and I go through announcements and make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Like last night, I was emphasizing, make sure you signed up to graduate, otherwise you won’t be able to walk in spring and those sort of things. So there’s a lot of ways to make sure you’re getting that information, but that’s another way you would be connected. In addition, the student guest speakers can speak to this, but I send out a ton of emails. I am sending out an email at the beginning of the semester, in the middle of the semester, at the end of the semester with important reminders and information that are program-wide announcements, as well as a ton of opportunities.

Now these aren’t just job opportunities. They may be opportunities to engage in research with the faculty if they’re looking for research assistants. It’s an opportunity– I know one of the business school faculty was looking for a research assistant. There are sometimes consulting challenges. Just all sorts of neat things that are constantly happening around Mason or even outside of Mason, and we’re constantly sharing those opportunities for you to get engaged with not just your professional development here at Mason, but outside of Mason as well.

And with that, we also have a Slack channel, and that Slack channel allows the opportunity for students to engage with their peers in their cohort, as well as across cohorts, as well as with PhD and MA students. And finally, another ways that we’re consistently thinking about ways to engage you with all students, all faculty.

So we do have the Learning Series, which is our program-wide colloquia that used to be on-ground prior to the pandemic. It opened to the master’s and PhD students. But because since the pandemic, it’s gone all virtual, and weekly we have a strong set of speakers coming in, both academics and practitioners, who are talking about their research interests. So students have the opportunity to join that.

So honestly, at Mason, the opportunities are endless. And you have a ton of ways to really make the best of your experience. And so students, while this long exhaustive list may sound very exhausting, I would say that students really choose to do what works best for them. Some of our students love engaging and come to everything and anything, and they want to get the most out of their experience with us. And they join our Student Advisory Board and they’re doing a ton of things with us.

Other students understand that they have the work-life demands with full-time jobs and families they’re balancing. And that’s OK and they do the best they can, but they still are very successful in the program with everything that we have set up for them.

So those are some of the things that you can expect from our online program. And now I would love to turn it over to our student guest speakers who are going to tell you a little bit more from the student perspective while I try to catch up on some of the questions in chat and address them at the end. Melissa, can we turn it to you?

MELISSA DONEGAN: That sounds great. Are you able to hear me?


MELISSA DONEGAN: Awesome. So briefly, my name is Melissa Sauve Donegan. I currently work at Deloitte Consulting as a human capital consultant. I started my I-O program last fall and I am part of cohort 8. I’m about to wrap up my third course in the program, Advanced Data Analytics I, which I’m very excited to complete. And I have had a really good experience so far, and I just want to make sure to answer your questions.

I know– Hugo, I saw a question from you about, is the program friendly to full-time employees? I would say that it definitely is. I work full-time along with being in the program full-time. So my schedule consists of a lot of evenings and then work on the weekends. And my professors so far have made it very easy for me to attend their office hours there in the evenings or even on a lunch break. Some of them even make them on the weekend. So there’s a lot of flexibility and options.

Does anybody have any other questions about the program? I’m happy to answer them from a student perspective. Are they able to come off mute or is it just through the chat?

AUDIENCE: I have a question.

AFRA AHMAD: Oh, there you go. Go ahead.

AUDIENCE: Hi. I was wondering what your undergrad degree was.

MELISSA DONEGAN: So my undergrad was in public health.


MELISSA DONEGAN: Yeah. And I actually went to George Mason University for that. And then I ended up in health care consulting for four years, and then I moved over to Deloitte, and I’ve been a human capital consultant for four years.

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

MELISSA DONEGAN: Yeah. Let me see if there’s any more questions. So there aren’t any traditional what you would call classes. So you are given a body of work each week. And it consists of Learn, which is materials you will use to immerse yourself in the material for the week in addition to traditional textbooks. There may also be YouTubes or something that your professor has recorded ahead of time for you to watch.

And then every Thursday there is something called a discussion board post. So it gives you an opportunity to answer a question about the body of work that week in the topics that week and interact with your classmates on those subjects and reply to their posts. And then you’re given other assignments that are due by Sunday, but you’re given the flexibility to do that work when it’s available to you. The only two times there’s something to do every week is Thursday evening and Sunday evening.

SARA FOLEY: I saw a question here, Melissa, about– it was how many class and work hours per week is a typical course? So how did that work out for you since you were working full-time?

MELISSA DONEGAN: So it depends on the course. And Afra will know this better than I do. But I think it’s about 20 to 30 hours a week that we’re recommending. Let me know if I’m off on the hours of work time commitment to the school program. I think it’s about that many hours.

AFRA AHMAD: We give the range of– when we’re developing the course, a three-credit course, if you think about it, is supposed to equate to nine hours a week. So if you were to be on campus as a graduate student, when you go in, you have three hours you’re maybe sitting in a classroom, but then six hours you’re doing a reading.

And so that’s– they actually have a very formulaic thing of just like in the public school system, you have to have a certain number of attendance hours before you’re granted your degree. Similarly, credit hour has equal a certain number of hours. And so when the courses were developed, they were developed with 15 to 20 hours in mind. However, is there individual variability? Absolutely.

I mean, we have a diverse body of students, students who may have just graduated last semester, to students that may have graduated 30 years ago. And especially in the beginning of the program, it may have taken some students a while to get accustomed to the writing and reading expectations, and so that’s something that to keep in mind.

I do want to make sure we give some Marcia time to introduce herself and talk a little bit about her experiences, and then I’d be happy to come to some of these questions that have been coming through.

AUDIENCE: Before she finishes, I would like to ask a question to Melissa.


AUDIENCE: So my question is for your current job, what you’re doing with Deloitte. Would you have been able to get that job with your master’s degree if your undergrad was in a different section like business school to say something?

AFRA AHMAD: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. Everyone has a different trajectory of how they get to their path. So for me, I worked for a different firm in health care, which was my original undergraduate background. And then after I worked for that firm for four years, I moved over to Deloitte and did more of the traditional consulting. So those skills that I had built working in health care consulting specifically made it possible for me to move to a more generic consulting career.

So it was more my work experience that brought me there, but what I want to do now in I-O psychology, I actually work with a group of I-O psychologists at Deloitte, and to do the work. I want to do with them, I needed this degree. And I just wanted this degree. I wanted to be a subject matter expert when I walked into the room and when I was on those contracts. So I wanted this specific knowledge to move forward with what I want to do.

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

AFRA AHMAD: Mm-hmm. All right. Do you want to turn it over to Marcia?

MARCIA BERNDT: Sure. Are you ready? Melissa, are you going to officially turn it over to me? I, as you can possibly tell– if you can tell from the silver hairs, I represent a returning student faction. Happy to do that. My name is Marcia Berndt and I’m a talent management analyst at State Farm Insurance in their corporate offices.

So I work in the space of employee engagement and data analytics. And my background is in HR. It’s an HR management. My degree– my bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois was in management. And I got an interest– I had an interest in human resources, and so I pursued that.

I’m actually a returning student in that I started a master’s program– on-the-ground master’s program several years ago. And so this is– I started it and I didn’t finish it, and I’ve always regretted that. I’m like Melissa. I wanted to be– I wanted that degree behind my name. I was working in the selection phase and I loved it, and I was doing that based on– just based on the power of having started the degree previously. And I wanted to finish that.

So when I started looking for programs, George Mason was definitely at the very, very top of my list. And so I’m really happy to be back in school even as an older returning student. I work full-time. And a lot of you are having questions about how much time. It’s definitely a competitive and demanding program, but it’s completely doable.

I work– my job is pretty demanding. I took a lateral career path outside of HR management. And I wanted to be an analyst. I wanted to be doing more of the data analytics and the strategy work. And so that took me on a lateral career path. And I have not regretted it one moment. So what can you expect from this program?

I think there are a couple of perspectives. I’d like to look at. The first is maybe you’re not sure yet if you want a virtual program versus an on-the-ground program. And I think that’s something that is really good to consider and some of the pros and cons of each one. Let me tell you what some of the pros are for this particular virtual program.

This particular virtual program is as interactive a program as I’ve ever seen. And I work in a space at State Farm that does a lot of training. And recently because of COVID, we’ve had to move a lot of our training to virtual training, because of the environment and everything that’s going on. This program is ahead of its game. They’re what I would call a bellwether program for all other programs in I-O psychology at the master’s level.

And it was out of necessity, Dr. Ahmad, because you found yourself– you had a stellar on-the-ground program, but because of the environment and circumstances, you were forced to go virtual. And now you’ve got this completely virtual program, and it is– it’s so interactive, I want to talk a little bit about that.

The first thing is really, of course, convenience. When you were working full-time and every hour counts, especially if you’ve got children, a family, you’re caring for someone, an elderly parent or anything that takes you away for any amount of time, if you’re considering a master’s program, every single hour counts.

And this program is going to eliminate– any virtual program will eliminate the driving back and forth, commuting, parking, whatever, all that good stuff. So it’s very convenient. I want to talk a little bit about office hours. And Dr. Ahmad pointed out, there are optional office hours and each professor does it a little bit differently. And it just depends on that professor’s personality.

But the office hours are very interactive. Whether that professor is giving a lecture or whether we’re just going through either the homework from the previous week or the homework for the next week, incredibly interactive. And the connection that I have with the professors here, I never had this kind of connection at the University of Illinois. It was a much larger school. I didn’t get to interact directly with my professors who are at the– there’s– Dr. Ahmad was talking about just how– I’m trying to think of the word.

They’re known in their fields for being experts in their field. You’re not talking to a TA. You’re not going to peers for things. You’re going straight to your professor for questions, and those professors are well-known very well-known and renowned in their field.

I want to point out one thing about those office hours, and I’m not sure we talked about it yet, but they are recorded. So if you can’t go in-person, you’ve got– maybe you have a job that’s not a daytime job maybe, you’re a night time job maybe, you’re in nursing or you work at a restaurant or whatever that is, those office hours are recorded. And so you’re always able to come back and pull those up and watch them. So it’s not necessarily like attending, but it’s really the next best thing and it’s amazing that those are available to us.

You will develop strong relationships. The relationships I have right now with my peers in my cohort and also in the cohorts ahead of me and behind me– Melissa is in the cohort right behind me, and she and I are really getting to know each other very well. We cannot wait for SIOP, which is coming up. We’ll be connecting with each other and hanging out at SIOP. So can’t wait for that.

You will get to know your peers. There’s not one person in my cohort that I don’t know. And some of them– the folks in my particular study group of people I study with, I’ll be friends with them for the rest of my life. We also host things like happy hours. We call them happy hours, but they’re actually study sessions.

So let’s just say like you– on the ground, you would go to the library and you’d meet up with a handful of people from class. We do that virtually. We call it– I think one of our sessions is Friday Night Study Hall, and then our Thursday night session is Happy Hour. So those opportunities are available in a virtual program and taking advantage of those is really important.

And the other thing is, maybe you’re looking at all virtual programs, but you’re not sure which program that you want to look at. And I’m just going to say very briefly about this program, George Mason. I have learned more in this program than I’ve learned in the other program that I started before, and I went nearly all the way through that other program.

Like I said, it’s demanding, but the curriculum is outstanding. You will learn what you need to learn to be an expert, as Melissa said, in your field. It’s not just the letters behind your name. If you are comparing programs, I’ll give you a story from my own experience, I and a peer of mine at work decided to start I-O programs at the same time. I was accepted to George Mason, she was accepted to another university. The program experiences are night and day.

She reads a lot of papers and then she writes a paper and that’s her class. She has no connection with the professors. She has no connection with her peers whatsoever. It’s read a lot and write, and that’s her degree. So outside of that, the only other thing I’d like to mention is just the diversity.

So you do get to know, like I said, the people that you’re studying with. The diversity is amazing. Diversity culturally, location geographically, diversity of thought and approach, the diversity of backgrounds that we all bring, most of us work. I think there may be just one or two in my cohort that don’t work full-time, but I think they’re doing full-time internships. So even then, you’ve got people working in all different walks of life. So, demanding but amazing. And I would say take advantage of this outstanding program if you’re able to do that. Thank you, Dr. Ahmad.

AFRA AHMAD: Thank you.

MARCIA BERNDT: Are there any questions? Is anything I can answer for anybody? Will they teach us R? Oh my gosh. So Melissa’s in the first data analytics class. I am in the second data analytics class, and I swear, when I’m done, which is in three days, I’m buying a T-shirt that says Girl Coder. I never thought I’d be a girl coder, but I’m coding in R and I’m so proud of myself. But yes, they will teach us– they do teach us R. I love it, yeah. What other questions?

AFRA AHMAD: So what I’m going to do– and congratulations, Marcia, yes. But what I want to do is I’m going to do a speed answering the questions. So I was so captivated by what Marcia and Melissa were saying, so instead of typing up responses to all the questions, I’d love to just go through and quickly respond to the questions that came in.

So I’m going to scroll up and we’re going to take a few minutes to go through these. So Heidi posed some great questions. What are the qualities that make for a successful I-O psychologist? And why would someone go into this field as a profession? And then she had some more questions about who would work on behalf of labor unions and labor advocates. And describe how this degree offers benefits to the future skills needed of tomorrow’s workers.

Those are all great questions, so I’m going to– because we have a ton of questions to get to, I’m going to give some quick responses. So in terms of the qualifications for successful I-O psychologists, I mean, there are some core competencies that we are drawing from. So I’ve been very heavily involved with SIOP, the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology, and we have guidelines that we need to follow. And we pull from those guidelines and competencies and map them out into our curriculum.

So every course, the core competencies that you need, whether it be your data analytical skills, your writing skills, your reading skills, comprehension, problem-solving, team-building, all of that we’ll pull out and look at that. SIOP is a great resource that outlines that. The SIOP salary survey data has also outlined those competencies. There’s been a ton of research, so I’d be happy to follow up with some of those citations.

And for someone who– why would somebody want to go into this area? I think this is the future of work. At the end of the day, any organization, it will be successful based on its human capital. And to have an effective human capital in an organization, you need I-O psychologists. You need people who can do things anywhere from– when we’re talking about selection, training, performance management, leadership, motivation, well-being, I mean, all of these dynamics, and with the whole social movement with diversity, equity, and inclusion, how many times I’ve been called by organizations–

Just yesterday I was meeting with the director of the National Science Foundation who want me to do so much work with them, and I’m like, I already have a full-time job, I cannot do this other stuff that you’re saying. But they are needed and it’s growing. If you look at the job outlook in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’ll see it’s a growing profession.

And in terms of the workers of tomorrow, there are certain skill sets that artificial intelligence, quite frankly, cannot take our jobs. I mean, they tried to have an artificial intelligence– I think it was at– was it Amazon or– I’m forgetting my specific case studies, but it failed miserably. And it had its own biases and it had issues.

And so at the end of the day, they’re going to need the competencies that we have to have the skill set to be the workers of tomorrow. So somebody asked the– two people asked the question about students going in PhD programs. So this is a new area [INAUDIBLE]. While our on-ground master’s students are more better prepared in terms of having a lot more of that research emphasis in their coursework to go into PhD programs, that doesn’t mean our MPS students aren’t going into PhD programs.

We have a couple of students who have been accepted to PhD programs, and one of them at a top tier I-O program, and he just let us know about a week ago so that’s very exciting. And so that is possible. I would say– my advice would be to really study that MA versus MPS table and understand that our curriculum is focused on application. And it would better set you up for success for PhD programs. However, you can always still complete our classes and take advantage of research opportunities to help best prepare your application materials for your PhD programs.

And remember, there’s a lot of different kinds of PhD programs out there. You have those that are top tier programs in the country, those that are more application-focused, more academic-focused, more fully online. There’s such a variety. And so that’s a whole other conversation. And we actually had a monthly call on that with a presentation that I think I can dig up a recording and tried to send for those that may be interested.

Classes are– again, when you are enrolled in a class, it is asynchronous. So Stephanie, you asked the question about asynchronous component. You will be going through the class experience asynchronously, going through the learning materials, exercises. Online learning is different than being in a classroom. We’re not spoon-feeding you information. We’re providing– having you engage with the information. It’s a very different learning model.

So as somebody had noted in their talk, we’re not like the programs that were in-person then tried to switch everything online. We were developed to be a fully online program, which means we use best practices of online pedagogy, and it’s not like let’s just hold our lectures asynchronously and engage with the class the way we would in-person. It’s not like that at all.

Sandra asked, how many students are we expected to start in the upcoming session? So that’s a great question. I don’t have the final number yet, but just to give you an idea, we have cohorts coming in this fall, spring, and summer. Our fall and spring sessions are usually the larger cohorts. What that means is we do cap classes at 25. You’ll never be in a class with more than 25 students. That’s really just to improve the engagement that you have with the faculty members.

And a cohort that’s coming in can have two sections. So the fall and the spring have two sections, and that means around 40-ish students that are coming in. And the summer one usually has one cohort, so 25 to 30-ish, but I don’t have the final numbers for summer yet because we’re taking applications up until April.

How many class and work hours per week? We talked about this. Scheduled or planned to be 15 to 20, but there’s some individual variability. The times of day office hours are held. So again, every faculty member does this differently, but we are mindful that a large body– a population of our students are working full-time.

So while I do have two young kids, I always hold my office hours later in the day. I hold them 7:00 to 8:00 or 8:00 to 9:00 to meet the needs of my West Coast students and my working students. And that does interrupt bedtime with my five-year-old and those sort of things, but I do recognize that the need of a student.

And so we have faculty members that have even office hours on the weekends, and some that aren’t able to move there– whether childcare demands and schedules, and they might have it in the day, but they’ll always record it and send out the recording. So that also answers the question about the students who are international.

The live and online program comparison chart has been shared. Full-time-friendly program, yes. I would say a majority of our students are full-time. I don’t have the exact statistics, but I would estimate 90% at least. I don’t know, because I feel like most of our students are full-time. And Marcia and Melissa alluded to some of– it’s worked for them and it works for many others.

Any in-person requirements or proctored exams? Nope. The only time you would be– you actually don’t have any in-person requirements. You’re not even required to come to graduation, but a lot of students do. The first cohort, because of the pandemic, it was– we will always have a virtual celebration component, but Mason offers on-ground component.

And so in the winter, our students came on campus and walked and got the hood and have their family and friends came, and I’m really looking forward to the spring graduation ceremony with nice weather. But again, that’s not even required. And I wish and hope you could make it to Fairfax, Virginia and see you all in-person.

Some other opportunities for in-person engagement is in the fall at Mason. We hold a picnic for our PhD, MA, MPS students, and alumni. So in the fall we had about 12 MPS students that came to that. In the spring, we will have graduation. A lot us are meeting up at SIOP and those sort of things. So not required, but there are some opportunities to engage with the faculty and other peers in-person.

The total credit hours, Pamela, is 30 credit hours and you have six core– excuse me, eight core courses and then two elective courses that you would choose. Are there opportunities to do work-ahead? And Stephanie said she has two school-aged children, they’re going on spring break vacation. Absolutely.

So when you get into a class, the entire eight weeks is already laid out for you. So you do have the opportunity to work ahead. However, you may not get that feedback ahead of time. If you’re working on week 6 and there are only– the faculty member’s grading week 2 or you guys are on week 2, you may not get that feedback. But you do have that opportunity because everything is made available early on.

And somebody asked the question, if the program gets to be too much, can you put the program on hold? Once you are accepted at Mason, you have five years to complete your degree. But as I mentioned, most students do not take that long. They like to go through courses, because it would be hard to take your second data analytics course if you hadn’t taken– if you took the first data analytics course a year and a half ago. So this course, students usually go in sequence, but you do have the option or opportunity–

We’ve had students with health demands of family members themselves or they were traveling for consulting work, somebody said that yeah, my family is going on vacation spring session 2 and we’re going to be gone for two weeks and I want to have to think about school. Students have made those choices and that we are flexible and can allow that and set that up.

What other questions? The admissions requirements. So I would say, from the– someone making some of those admissions decisions, we do have a team, admissions team. So it’s an internal board that we have at Mason looking at your application materials and then we send it up to the Mason person to approve admissions and then get processed.

But the main things we are looking at– and I can tell you exactly what’s in our spreadsheet, is we have your demographic information, your GPA, your work experience. We rate that work experience 1, 2, 3, how related it is to I-O or not. So, I mean, we do give you points for having any type of work experience.

We have the chart for prerequisites. So that experience grade that you guys are working on, that’s extremely helpful. When you’re able to tell us that what statistics and research methods experiences you’ve had, either in formal classes or in the workforce, and if you’re able to make that pretty clear and apparent to us, some of you who haven’t had any have gone above and beyond by providing some LinkedIn, Coursera courses, but that’s great.

That’s showing engagements so you don’t get penalized as much for that. Like she’s taken no stats classes or research methods in undergrad. Well, that’s OK. He or she is engaging in this other stuff, or this is how they’re doing those things in the workplace. So that that’s some of the ways that you can beef that application material up.

And we do look at those letters of recommendations, your personal statements, the essays. Some of you have written addendums about your GPAs. I mean, I would say we take a holistic approach. Sometimes it’s very hard to make the decision, because if it was up to me, I’d want everyone in there. But honestly, we are looking for a good program fit as well.

As the students mentioned, it is a rigorous program and I would hate to set someone up for success if they have not had academic or work success or strong letters of recommendation setting them up for success coming into our program, because while we have a lot of tools to set you up for success, I would say it is rigorous, it is demanding, and there are certain competencies you need to be successful. And so if we are not able to sort of extract that from your application materials, you may not be accepted.

So that’s something to think about with the admissions process. And there’s a question about the cost per credit. I believe it’s on our website. It is currently– and correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe, $850 per credit hour. And I actually– I’m glad you asked about tuition. We are very competitive compared to other programs in the country.

I just did the analysis, will tell you that we have a call to increase our tuition. And just to let you know how I’m constantly advocating for our students and faculty, I said no, I don’t want to raise tuition. I mean, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. And I didn’t just say no, I don’t want to do it, I backed it up with evidence.

I spent a day working on a table downloading every single online program in the country, their tuition rates, comparing it, other online programs at Mason, whether the business school, whatever, comparing that, and giving them data as to where we’re at, what we’re doing, why I don’t want to do this, and outlining several reasons. So gratefully we’re not increasing our tuition for another fiscal year, and that was something I definitely was advocating thinking about for the students.

The software question. So SPSS and R are statistical softwares we use and you’ll be engaging with in the courses in your data analytic courses as well as in your research methods and practicum course. So some of you’ve put some great information in there. And then what else? Is there anything else I’m– OK, so great. Some questions about application deadline, timeline.

It’d be great to have your applications in by March 15. The summer cohort begins in April. And another question by Corey. Do you need to have a psychology, medical, or health undergrad or background? No you don’t. Our students come from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds, and that’s the beauty of this program. I have students in this program that are working in health care, IT, and they might be managers at IT programs and they’re trying to make their organizations better.

And I remember one student telling me, oh my gosh, I do this stuff in health care, and I know we give all these surveys to doctors, but I didn’t realize how we’re doing such a bad job. We don’t really have good data when we’re making these decisions in the workplace about different practices and protocols and procedures.

And so our students come from a variety of backgrounds. And one way that we have worked to level the playing field because we recognize that with students coming from a diverse background and dumping them into the first content class, which was originally the organizational psychology course, Foundations of Organizational Psychology, it was challenging.

It was very challenging for students to get up to speed with the jargon. So something new that we did that I introduced just after two cohorts was, we worked on developing the Introduction to the Science and Practice of Industrial Organizational Psychology course.

And the intention of that course was to give you guys eight weeks to get a brief overview of what I-O is, and get an overview of what kind of jobs I-O psychologists have, the competencies, do some exploration, build up your knowledge about this key terminology, building up your writing skills, your reading skills, looking up articles, using APA format.

So we do have an intro course that is set up to really set you up for success with your content courses. That used to not be required, but it was created and implemented to really help with it and address this question that’s Corey had.

What percentage of students are employed while in the program? Again, I don’t have the exact data, but I would have to say it’s pretty high. I would say most of our students are employed.

And do I know of any federal government employee discount on tuition? I’m not familiar with that, but I would say to check with your organization to see– several of our students do have discounts through their organizations, because I’m constantly having to write letters just verifying they’re an active student in our program, they have– they’re in good standing, what their grades are. So I’ve written this letter for a couple– for several students who get some discounts from their employers. I would check with your employer.

Are most of the students US-based? I would say majority are. We have not necessarily targeted or international base yet. We’re doing quite successful in the US population. Most of our students are US, but we do have international students. We have students that may be international for their own jobs, for their spouse’s jobs, we have an active military student stationed in South Korea, we have students in Germany, Dubai. Where else? Those are some of the ones that I’m thinking of immediately. But we do have some international students, but primarily they’re US-based.

If you’re not admitted into the program due the admissions cap not being unqualified, will your application role into the next admissions period? That’s a great question. We did that in the fall and we’re going to try our best because we know students are eager to start at a certain time point. But yes, if we have, for whatever reason, met our goal for the summer and you can move your application into the fall, we are looking into that option and we would communicate that with you.

So we did do that for the first time in the fall because the cohort was getting pretty large, and some of those students came and joined us in the spring cohort. Do we use or require any standardized tests? No, we do not require the GREs. Our on-ground PhD in the master’s program do require the GREs, but we do not require that in our program. OK. I said I would get through all the questions. Are there any other questions that anyone has that like to be addressed?

AUDIENCE: My question–

AFRA AHMAD: OK, sorry, go ahead.

AUDIENCE: I mean– like I think it’s the applied project– it’s one of the final courses. The practicum, that’s what it was. Is that done at work or– I may have misunderstood that at some point. Do you do like a practicum through your job and show work experience for the practicum? What does the practicum look like for students I guess is the root of my question.

AFRA AHMAD: OK, that’s a great question. So again, I know when you hear the word practicum, you might be like, oh my God, do I have to quit my job and go work in– no, no, no. Because we recognize most of our students are working and some of them may be working in more I-O-relevant areas than others.

So what we do is we’re trying to integrate the work experiences you’re having with what you’re learning. So we have it as a two-part– like you take two classes back-to-back, you have the research methods class and then the practicum class. And you know what? Instead of– I’m going to try to do something for you all.

I have my research methods. I’m going to show you guys the roadmap. Can you guys see my screen?

AUDIENCE: Yeah, that looks good.

AFRA AHMAD: So what you guys are doing is you follow this little roadmap. In research methods, you’re developing a research question. So Matt, it would be ideal if you can identify a problem you’re having in your workplace. Like OK, we’re having turnover intention issues, we’re having problems with our diversity efforts, we’re having problems with xyz, whatever it might be.

We would love for you to identify a workplace problem and then talk to your supervisor. Would you let me collect data? I can help. I can give something back to you at the end, a white paper, a presentation. I can give this back to you if I get your support. So you can integrate it with your work experiences. However, we recognize this is not possible for everyone. Some of our students are working in federal spaces or in spaces that don’t allow their– like allow the students to collect data from their organizations. And therefore, we have made this requirement a little bit more flexible.

And what that means is there’s two things you can do. One is, all students complete this project with a partner, and we strongly believe in you working with a partner with this. Because it is a very rigorous, intensive process. And if you look at those research papers out there, they often have multiple authorships. You’ll rarely find someone being a solo author.

And someone who asked the earlier question about building the workers of tomorrow, the number one thing is being an effective teammate as well. You’d be surprised how many people don’t have those teams skills, team members skills. And so that’s integral, it’s very important. So we do have a student advisory board that set up a team contract, and we have started that this semester with the students.

But you’re working with a partner. And maybe if you can’t use your own organization. Your partner has a problem or something they’d like to study in the context of their organization. But you would pick a partner who has similar research interests. So I have a little Excel spreadsheet. Tell me if you’re interested in leadership, if you’re interested in recruitment, whatever it might be.

So that if you’re not able to identify a partner, we can help you find a partner with similar interests with you. And then you work with that partner in– remember what I said earlier, we’re a scientist practitioner field, so we integrate the science with the application. So once you identify that work problem, you’re working through doing a literature review. You’re putting that literature review together, coming up with a hypothesis, synthesizing it, you’re coming up with the– you’re survey and all of that.

You’re going through all of the steps. Then you’re putting forward– what you’re working towards is, yes, collecting data, analyzing it, but really, at the end of that, being able to say, I took an abstract idea of a problem that I was thinking of and I’m able to now put forward some specific solutions of how to address that problem, what to do with that information.

So that is the practicum experience. You are putting what you’re learning into practice, and ideally you’d be able to integrate your work experiences, but that is not required, because again, we are trying to be flexible to meet the demands for all students. Does that answer that, Matt?

AUDIENCE: Yes, that was super helpful, thank you.

AFRA AHMAD: OK. Another question came in about, is there– are there internships offered in the program? I’ll let Marcia and Melissa speak to this. I send out a ton of opportunities. So employers love Mason students. And so they send me emails and they send all the faculty emails, and all the faculty will send them out to all three listservs, PhD, master’s, and MA and MPS. Marcia, I saw you get off mute.

MARCIA BERNDT: Well, I was just going to say, there are so many times when I wish I was not working full-time and I’ve considered, hey, what if I quit my job and just did this school thing full-time? Because some of the internships that come through are amazing. Not only do they come through and they’re amazing, but they pay really, really good salaries– some of them. Some of them, it just depends.

But yeah, there’s no lack of opportunity for you to take advantage of. I can’t think of– anything that you could come up with, I think there’s opportunity there. And most of the time it falls in your lap. Dr. Ahmad puts it in our laps, we don’t have to go looking for it.


MELISSA DONEGAN: Yeah. I completely agree. There’s even– if you’re looking for a research opportunity or you really want that laboratory experience, there are offers all the time for faculty not only in our program, but also in the PhD program who are working in research. One of my fellow cohort members is doing the research for her, and she’s loving it. So that’s something that I’m hoping to do as well, because there’s a lot of good stuff to get into.

MARCIA BERNDT: Yeah. And I would add that one of my peers is doing that research with one of the professors, and he will be listed as an author on that paper when it’s all said and done. So really good opportunities.

AFRA AHMAD: All right. So I do want to be respectful of your time. We are at the hour mark. I hope you all found the session informative to learn more about Mason, our online program, our expectations, and the support systems that we have in place for you all. And we look forward to your application materials and hopefully engaging with you this summer or in the fall.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the admissions team. They’re great at answering all the questions and they escalate any questions that are left remaining to me so that I can get back to them. And feel free to check out the I-O newsletters I mentioned to learn more about our program and culture and climate. We have a spring newsletter we’re working on now. So you get the cutting edge recent information in April. So check back on the website, it’ll be out mid-April right before SIOP.

And feel free to let us know if you want to engage with students. So we do have a Student Advisory Board, and the Student Advisory Board has an email address and students are often very enthusiastic to engage with others. So thank you, Marcia and Melissa, for joining us tonight. They’re both on the advisory board, very active. And Melissa’s currently working on developing the mentoring program. Marcia just wrapped up developing the team contracts that are going to be used throughout all the courses in the program.

So very engaged student body. If you want to chat more with them and make sure you get any remaining questions answered, just let us know. We’d be happy to pass along that information. Thank you so much, and I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your night.

Master of Social Work Transcript

SUSAN: Hello, and welcome to Mason’s Online Master’s of Social Work. I am here with Dr. Daphne King, who is the program coordinator, and two of our MSW students to tell you all about the program. Throughout the evening, if you can go ahead and input your questions into the Q&A section, but without further ado, Dr. King, if you can share a little bit about yourself with the students.

DAPHNE KING: All right. Well, good evening, everyone. I am very happy to be here with you all and talk a little bit about the Master of Social Work program here at George Mason.

And I think it’s very fitting that we are holding the open house tonight because today marks the beginning of Social Work Month. And this is the month that, as social workers, we celebrate and acknowledge all of the work that social workers do in our communities and on behalf of individuals and those that may be marginalized or oppressed in society. And so it’s really great for us to be able to share with you this evening.

As you can see from my slide, I did my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University, received my Master of Social Work from Grand Valley State University, and have a Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology. One thing that you can see from the degrees that I have is I’ve always wanted to work in a field where I could work with people and help others, and so social work has been a great fit for me with that.

I do have a research interest in working with adolescents and exploring their involvement with Christianity and how their involvement with those spiritual practices impact their self-esteem as well as treatment modalities for women of color. I do work, of course, in practice with all populations. I do work in private practice part time, and primarily because I teach clinical practice courses here in the Department of Social Work, I want to make sure that I keep those clinical skills sharp.

So I do work in private practice part time. I have a specialty in marriage and family counseling as well as working with adolescents and individuals experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidal [INAUDIBLE]

I have also previously had some experience working as an adjunct professor, before coming to Mason, at Indiana Wesleyan University, where I primarily taught policy courses, as well as I was a field liaison in the social work department at Indiana Wesleyan University. So again, I’m happy to be here sharing with you this evening, especially as today begins Social Work Month.

SUSAN: Wonderful. Thank you so much. And again, my name is Susan, and I’m an admissions rep for George Mason. And so we’re going to talk about various aspects of the program, but if you have any questions regarding how to apply, I would be your gal along with my wonderful colleagues.

And so I’m going to go ahead and post in the chat how you can reach out to us in case you don’t have someone assisting you, and then, of course, if you have an admissions representative helping you, you should already have their contact information. So again, thank you for taking the time out to join us this evening. We’re so happy to see you and have you here with us.

And as I mentioned, we’re so fortunate to have two of our students that are going through the program right now, Morgan and Lila. So if you both can share what your experiences have been with the program and what you’ve liked thus far and how you manage your time. I was speaking with y’all earlier, and it sounds like you’re very busy women indeed. So, Morgan, if you want to go ahead and start us out, that would be great.

MORGAN MOORE: Oh, hey, yeah, my name is Morgan Moore. I think I want to start off with why I chose Mason, because I had the option to go other places, and I still stuck with Mason. I love that it was mostly asynchronous. There are times where you get to meet with your professors, but it’s mostly, you get to do it on your own.

And I am super self-motivated, so if you want to be in this program, I would suggest being a self-starter and finding your own deadlines. And if you have questions, the professors have always been very helpful, especially Dr. King. I want to give a shout out to her. She always takes my calls. Yeah.

SUSAN: Awesome.

MORGAN MOORE: So if I had some tips for being successful in this program that I have found on this journey, I am still on my generalist year, and it has been a lot of reading. And there are some strategies that I would suggest. There are apps out there that can read for you that you can download, and they can read it for you. So if you’re a busy mom like I am, you can listen to them.

I would also recommend Zotero, which is something that Mason actually developed, and you can create your own database. Another trick that has helped is reading the entire course syllabus and recognizing what is going to be happening and making a ladder for yourself for the main research topic. So if it is something to do with poverty, picking what you want that whole entire focus to be and the smaller papers can be stepping stones and building a database for your research.

That is the most amazing thing that you can do for yourself because you are leveling up. I call it leveling up in Mario or in Zelda or an RPG. You are getting yourself to a place where, by the time you get to that paper, you already have your research mostly completed, and you’re finalizing it and making it a beautiful package for your professor about your journey through the process with the text that they’ve already provided.

So if you can really look at that syllabus before you start, you’re setting yourself up for success and planning it. And to that end, what I wanted to know before I walked into this program was what was the shell of it like. My undergrad was also online, and it’s going to be reading discussion questions. There will be group projects, and your first group project will be a whirlwind, and you’ll learn a lot.

But take it with grace and compassion for yourself, and understand that we’re all going through this process. And you will fine tune that group project or that contract in the beginning to benefit yourself. And don’t take too much of it personally because we’re all going to find that contract, and we’re all going to be on this journey together. And I just want you guys to hold true to that.

If I could have one piece of advice for that, listen to podcasts. Don’t live in an echo chamber. Challenge your biases. Challenge it for the sake of just arguing.

Don’t just agree with everyone on the discussion questions. Cultivate your own concept. You don’t want to just agree with people. Question what’s being taught.

I try to listen to far right conservative– not far right. Too far right. I try to listen to right, libertarian, liberal, and you’re trying to come to an understanding so you can meet not only with diverse populations but diverse backgrounds and beliefs and faiths. That is so monumentally important.

I want to try to wrap this up super fast. Get Zoom. If you get here, you can get Zoom for free professionally, so you can have long Zoom chats and meet with your group.

Take advantage of a librarian. She’s amazing. She’s a special artist that can find things for you.

What else can I really say? Listen to podcasts. Gather the data. If you have a question, reach out to the professor. They will answer.

If you can’t find your answer, these groups will provide you also a sense of support that you can reach out to them and find more information that maybe they can pull up really quickly for you and bounce ideas off if you get stuck in writer’s block. And I think those are my main things that have been so incredibly helpful for me on this journey. And if anyone has questions, or they want to know more, I implore you to come reach out to me.

I’ll put my email in the chat, and I have way more tips and tricks. But I’m just trying to condense it down, and I’m sure that Lila will have so much more to share, too. And I look forward to hearing more about hers.

SUSAN: Wonderful, thank you so much. And, Lila, if you can tell us what your impressions have been thus far in the program, would be wonderful.

LILA ELLIOTT: So welcome, everyone. My name is Lila. And, Morgan, you did amazing, so thank you.

One of the benefits for me doing an MSW program is I am very fortunate because I am at the end of my first career retirement, and so I have about four years left. I’ll be retiring from the Department of Justice as a mental health treatment provider. So this is going to be my third degree, and so I feel like, after I retire, I want to open up my own practice. So that is what brought me to GMU.

One of the reasons why I chose GMU, it was because it was online based, but I had– really was looking for some classes that did not seem like a whole entire semester, me taking one class or four classes for 16 weeks. So one of the advantages at GMU that I am happy to announce to you all, and you’re going to thank me later, is that every eight weeks we have a class.

And so in my mind– because my undergrad is a psych major. So in my mind, I’m saying, yes, I can do one class every eight weeks, and so I am honored to say that is one of the perks that I truly enjoyed about GMU outside of the warm, welcoming from people like Susan, and the admissions department making the process very simple. But that was one of the benefits.

I would definitely say that the program itself is amazing. There are so many professors like Dr. King. Many different professors like Dr. King. I will always encourage everyone that, if you have a problem with your professor, always, always, always feel honored to be able to communicate with them and always try to talk to them. Even if you may feel like they’re a little tough, it’s going to benefit us in the long run.

And the reason why I’m saying this is because, when I graduate from GMU, and I get into my licensors and my actual post hours, you’re not going to know what type of supervisor you’re going to have. And those instructors and professors that’s currently at GMU, they may be those supervisors that we may have to deal with. And so it’s going to teach us the discipline for learning how to deal with people from all walks of life and cultures and races.

So that is one thing that I enjoy about GMU. My experience has been really well. I am very happy to be able to juggle many hats.

I am a parent. I am a wife. I have three jobs currently because I count my field practicum, which is this– this is my generalization year, so I have to do a minimum of 450 hours. So I do count that as a part time job as well, and I would definitely support Morgan. It’s very hard.

I don’t want to sit here and say, oh, it’s perfect. It takes a lot of time management. It takes a lot of organization skills. It takes a lot of assertive communication. It takes a lot of self-care.

I’m an advocate for self-care. If there’s nothing but taking a walk for 30 minutes a day or getting in the shower and spending some time just to yourself, [INAUDIBLE] in that hot water, it’s small things that will help us get through this journey. And again, I welcome you all. I look forward to reaching out to you all.

I will also follow Morgan and put my email in here. I am here. I am down to Earth, I’m humble, and I’m one of you all. And I would never, ever say that GMU is not the place to be because I’m doing it, and Morgan doing it, and we rocking it. So welcome again.

MORGAN MOORE: Just really quickly, I want to echo her with regards to professors. There are ones that you’re not going to get along with, or you’re not going to see eye to eye, but they will teach you something. I started off with a harder professor, but I came out a better research writer. And it was challenging, but I still respect every single one.

They all have something to offer, and the way you frame it is going to help shape your journey through it as well. So I just echo Lila on that one, and thank you for even reminding me of that. They will teach you something, and every project does have a purpose. It’s not just mindless things. Thank you for reminding me of that too, Lila.

LILA ELLIOTT: You’re welcome.

SUSAN: Yeah, I have to say that y’all are amazing. I mean, working full time, going to school, juggling kids, and you’re doing it successfully, so hats off to you. And so, Dr. King, back to the program, and Lila had mentioned what you do is you take one class every eight weeks, and the semester being 16 weeks. Tell us a little bit about the structure and more about the nitty gritty about the program please. That would be wonderful.

DAPHNE KING: Absolutely, and I do want to start by thanking Morgan and Lila for joining us this evening and for such great feedback to all of you. And I did had Morgan and Lila in their first two classes, so they were amazing students. They were very engaged.

And I do want to point out one of the things that they said is you do want to get to know your instructors because often, you may need to also go to those instructors for letters of recommendation, and you want to have had a connection with them beyond just them grading your assignments. Both Morgan and Lila, I can say that I have a connection with, and they’ve asked for letters of recommendation. And I’ve been able to write them because I actually do know both of them, and they took the time to cultivate those relationships.

With the online program, one thing that I do want to say that they both pointed out is that the online program, getting your MSW or graduate degree, it is not a sprint. It is a journey. It is a marathon.

The MSW program is 60 credits to complete, and within the social work department, we like to use the language that we have one MSW program. We just have two different learning modalities, and that is online and on campus. And right now, you’re here for the online learning modality.

And so the program is 60 credits. You do want to come in with an open mind, being open to learning new things about yourself, being open to challenging your own biases and viewpoints on certain topics. I really appreciated Morgan saying that, in the discussion post or discussion board questions, don’t always agree with your classmates.

Offer a different opinion. Back up your opinions. That’s how we all learn. Even as an instructor, I’ve learned from my students in the discussion board.

With the program, again, it is 60 credits to complete. You are going to take your classes in eight week increments. Each of the semesters are divided into two eight week sessions, and you will take one class in each of those eight week sessions.

With the online program, we have kind of a rolling admissions because students do enter the program in fall, spring, and summer semesters, which is a little bit different from the on campus program. The program is primarily asynchronous, and as you heard Morgan and Lila say, there are some synchronous components to the online program. Those synchronous components comes in, one, with your field education courses.

The field education courses have a seminar where students will meet with their faculty liaison via Zoom, so it’s not in-person, but there are times when you will have to log into Zoom at a certain time on a certain day to meet with your seminar instructors. Your field practicum courses, or when you go to your practicum agency, to your internship, that has to be done in person. So that’s where the program has the synchronous components.

Primarily, your academic courses will be asynchronous. Some instructors will have synchronous components to the courses through virtual office hours. I am an instructor that, sometimes, I will also offer an optional synchronous class session. If I know that there are certain concepts in a course that may be more challenging for students, I will hold an optional synchronous class session.

So you can expect that the courses are primarily asynchronous with some synchronous components. Again, with Mason’s MSW program, it is a rigorous program. You’re getting a degree in a field of work where you are working on behalf of individuals and communities, their lives.

We’re advocating for policy. We are impacting clinical services. And so you want to know that you are getting an excellent quality for your money, and that’s what I believe about Mason’s MSW program. It is a rigorous program, so you are going to want to engage with course readings and course materials.

One thing that I will say is also don’t be so quick to sell back your textbooks. You want to start building your professional library, and that happens through your course materials. And so you really want to get in and engage with the courses. We have excellent instructors who are all experts in the field. They are engaging in research, and so you are going to really get an education that will enable you to go out into the field as practitioners in the field of social work.

SUSAN: I love how you have the little one there. Hey, there. So in terms of someone– and I love that balance of you have that asynchronous, but you do have that synchronous component where you can have that face to face time.

But it’s typically recorded if you can’t attend. Correct? So I think it’s a fantastic balance.

Now, if somebody is doing it– can you tell us a little bit how the students have outreach with the faculty and staff if they can’t make it to the synchronous sessions, say?

DAPHNE KING: So generally, because I’ve taught quite a few courses in the program, with the synchronous sessions, it is always communicated from the instructor that the synchronous sessions are optional. If students cannot attend the synchronous session, it is recorded, and that recording is made available to students. I mean, generally, because there are optional, some students will email and say that they can’t attend because of work commitments or what have you.

But it’s not a requirement. It is just an automatic thing that instructors will record the synchronous sessions and make it available to students the next day. So that is just the standard. So students don’t have to attend the optional synchronous class sessions. It’s offered as another way to engage and connect with the course, and just another way for students to promote student learning.

SUSAN: That’s wonderful. And we have some good questions that are coming in. The first one is, is there an Advanced Standing option for the online program, and yes, there is. And the second question was, will you be covering any information about the Advanced Standing program? So, Dr. King, would you like to address that.

DAPHNE KING: So Advanced Standing really is the same curriculum as the part time program. The only difference between Advanced Standing and what we call the traditional part time is that Advanced Standing students enter the program ready to start field and ready to start what we consider to be their specialization curriculum. So the Advanced Standing program is 33 credits to complete, and so students that enter Advanced Standing, have to have a BSW, and that BSW had to have been received within the last five years.

And so you know again, it is the exact same curriculum. You’re just entering the program in a place where you’re getting ready to start your specialization courses.

And so with the MSW program, I think you’ve heard us talk about generalists and specialization. So generalists are kind of your first 30 or so credits. And generalist basically means that you are getting basic knowledge and skills as a social worker. So those are your first 30 credits in the program is what we call generalists.

Those are courses that are like your human behavior courses, your foundations of social work and social welfare, courses that give you experience with policy, with community organizing. And you also will have two generalist field practicum courses.

Once you complete your generalist courses, then you will move into what we call your specialization curriculum, which is the place where Lila is. She is actually finishing up generalist this fall– well, actually this summer she will start moving into her specialization courses.

So the MSW program has two specializations– one is Children, Youth, and Families. The other is Adults and Healthy Aging. Students will declare a specialization. And then you will take courses during your specialization year based on your specialization.

And so those courses will be definitely more clinical in nature. Those courses will be definitely more rigorous and a little bit more challenging than some of the earlier generalist courses.

With the specializations, we do have a component where you can also engage with macro or policy work. We do have policy courses that are related to each of the specializations. So you can get some work with macro social work practice as well.

SUSAN: OK, wonderful. And along with the practicums, a student is asking, the internships and practicum are just experience, correct? No paid internships/practicum opportunities?

DAPHNE KING: That is correct. And one thing that– and just to go back to advanced standing, again, just to clarify again with advanced standing, you are coming in ready to start your specialization curriculum is 33 credits. We only accept advanced standing students for fall and spring semester.

Now with the practicum, practicum is the same as your internship. Field education is a signature pedagogy of social work education. And so as a part of the requirements given to us by the Council on Social Work Education, which is the accrediting body for the field or for social work education programs, students do have to complete a practicum or an internship.

And no, they are not paid practicums or internships. We do– with the Field Education Office, they will work with students. If you’re already working in a social service agency and your employer is OK with it, the Field Education Office will work with you on employment-based practicums.

But again, it’s still not paid. It would have to be in a different program from where you currently work. But again, that’s something that the Field Education Office can work with you on.

Within the MSW program, we do have two stipend opportunities. One is the Child Welfare Stipend Program. The other one is the CAP Behavioral Health Stipend Program. And these are two grants or stipend programs that students can apply for that will give them some funding for their MSW degree, if they are accepted into the program.

And there’s different criteria that you have to meet. And it’s an actual application process where you do have to apply. You have to have letters of recommendation. But those are opportunities to support students with funding through those two programs.

SUSAN: That’s great to know. So that’s terrific. And I know that there’s some scholarships that we also send out to the students as well. And a student is asking, is there a list of places that are approved for field experience.

DAPHNE KING: So George Mason has a partnership. And one of the things that I want to point out with the practicum or internships– students also have to understand that basically the agency where you’re doing your practicum, they are hosting you. These agencies or organizations, they don’t get paid for hosting students in the internship.

As social workers, we provide that kind of pro bono supervision to students getting their MSW because that’s just a part of what we do in the field. But the agencies are doing this because they believe in the field of social work and they want to support the next generation. So an agency is hosting you. And so I do think students want to understand that.

It’s also not an automatic thing. You have to apply to the agency. And the agency will interview you to determine if you will be a good fit for their agency.

And so George Mason has a partnership with hundreds of agencies here in the Northern Virginia area for students to do their practicum. Because this is an online program, we also have a partnership with agencies in other states.

So when you are ready to start your practicum, someone from the Field Education Office will actually follow up with you. There are different forms that you have to complete. There’s a Practicum Planning Form. We have placement coordinators that will work with students on their practicum placements, as well as their faculty liaisons who will be your seminar instructor that will also work with you on your practicum process.

So it’s not something that you will do alone. And it’s not necessarily a list that can be provided. But the Field Education Office will work with you on finding a placement for your internship.

SUSAN: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Now you mentioned that you could possibly use your current social work position as your internship place, as long as it’s with a different supervisor in a different department. Of course, it’s unpaid. Now is it potentially possible since you have two practicums, could you do it at your workplace or at the same place potentially?

DAPHNE KING: You could do an employment-based practicum at your workplace. There are different parameters for that that has to be worked out with the agency and the Field Education Office for the social work department. So that is something that you would want to address with them.

And the Field Education Office is really good about following up with students on that information. I will put their email address in the chat. So if you do have some more specific questions related to practicum, you can reach out to the Field Education Office.

SUSAN: Oh, that would be fantastic, because I know a lot of your questions revolve around the internships. And where can you apply for the child welfare stipends?

DAPHNE KING: So for the Child Welfare Stipend Program, you actually have to be accepted first. And then there’s different criteria. And typically what happens is the Social Work Department will send out a newsletter to students. You can only apply for the stipend programs at certain points in the year. The application process is already passed for the next academic year. But students are sent that information via a newsletter periodically when it’s time to start applying for the different stipend programs.

The other thing that the social work department does is through the newsletters, the weekly newsletters that go out to students. We also provide information on various scholarship opportunities. We provide information on different workshops and trainings. So you will receive a newsletter every Friday from the social work department with key information to help you as you grow as students and as social work professionals.

SUSAN: That is phenomenal. So a couple of the questions I can address. But in terms of a student, what is an ideal candidate for you all? Or is there an ideal candidate?

DAPHNE KING: So when you talk about an ideal candidate, ideally, when I look at admissions applications, of course, when we want to make sure that you’re meeting the basic criteria. But I’m also looking at how will you write.

And for Morgan and Lila, since they had me in class, know that I preach this– APA formatting is the writing style that has been adopted by the social work profession. And so when I’m looking at applicants, I’m looking to ensure that applicants can write at the graduate level, that they can write professionally, that they can use APA.

One thing that I frequently talk about with students is that when you’re practicing in the field, and much of social work is writing reports and writing treatment plan, is your name as a professional is attached to that treatment plan or that court report. And if you’re not using correct grammar or your sentence structure is awkward or words are missing in your sentences– when I worked in CPS, I have seen judges send court reports back to workers. And it costs clients their services. So I am really looking to see that you can actually write and that you can formulate clear and organized ideas.

Also looking to see if your values line up with the values of the social work profession, because that’s important as well. We want to ensure that you understand the values of the social work profession and then advancing social justice, advocating for human rights, respecting the dignity and worth of the person. And so really engaging with those values and making sure that you are able to communicate, that how you embody the values of the social work profession is something that I am also looking for.

SUSAN: OK, very good to know. And a student is asking, I have a bachelor’s in Government and International Relations. How could that fit into the program?

DAPHNE KING: Well, as we have seen with the– and I hesitate to use this because I think we’re all sick of hearing about it– but as we’ve seen with the pandemic, we live in a global society. And social work isn’t just encompassed domestically. There is work that can be done on an international or international global level. And so with your background, you could do macro work in shaping policy that could impact things domestically and abroad. As the first slide showed, there are so many different things that you can do with a degree in social work.

The great thing about a degree in social work is that because social workers, we look at things holistically and we look at how individuals are functioning within different systems and we look at their environment and the community, we look at things on such a more global level anyway that I think an MSW will complement your experience already.

SUSAN: Great. Yeah, exactly, so you don’t specifically have to have a background in social work.

DAPHNE KING: You don’t and as you saw from my biography, my bachelor’s degree is in Social Relations. I was in Political Science Honors College when I was in my undergraduate, which I could have gone in many different areas with that undergraduate degree.

So not having a BSW is not a requirement to get into the MSW program. One of the things that I’ve noticed about students in our online program is we have a lot of students who are career switchers. We have a lot of students who came from corporate America or who came from fields that were completely different from social work. So you don’t have to have a BSW or extensive social work experience to start the MSW program.

SUSAN: OK, perfect, perfect. Now, a student is asking, how has the requirement for in-person field practicum hours been affected by COVID surges and safety considerations? Have some placements gone virtual for some amount of time?

DAPHNE KING: So that has been challenging, to say the least, for everyone. So it depends on the agency. There were some agencies that did offer virtual options. There are some agencies where students did have to go in person. It really depended on the agency and what their requirements were.

And that’s one thing that you do want to keep in mind when you think about the practicum is that you are technically working at that agency. So as much as we have the school requirements, you are also going to have some requirements from that agency. So you want to make sure that you understand the expectations from the agency.

I do think, as COVID seems to be waning, practicums are in-person, again, some agencies did do virtual. But you can expect that your placements will be in-person. I would also recommend, as you’re thinking about applying to the MSW program, I believe Morgan and Lila both said you want to think about time management. And you really want to think about how your lifestyle is going to change when you start graduate school.

And I’m going to just say upfront, graduate school does not change for your lifestyle. You have to adjust your lifestyle for graduate school. So you really have to think about your schedule, think about your responsibilities, and think about the things that you may need to adjust or even cut out as you get ready to start graduate school, especially when you start your practicum.

I mean, we all did it. When I was getting my doctorate, I had to send an email and have a conversation with my family and friends to let them know that I was at a place where I couldn’t be as social as I was before. I had to cut out certain activities. I couldn’t come to family reunions and all of those things because I had to do my dissertation. I had to take my comprehensive exam. I had to write.

And so I had to make that adjustment. The school didn’t adjust to what I wanted my lifestyle to be. I did have to cut out some things. And I think that’s something that you all want to start thinking about is how you may need to adjust your time and even talking to your current employers about this process of applying for graduate school, what that could mean when you have to do your internship, how flexible can they be with your work schedule so that you can get those 16 hours.

So your first generalist practicum, it is going to be 16 hours a week at your practicum agencies. When you start your specialization practicum, it’s 20 hours a week at the placement agency.

So when you think about that on top of a 40 hour work week, you really want to start thinking about how you may need to adjust your schedules and work with your employers about your work schedule so that you can make sure that you’re able to accommodate things with your time.

SUSAN: Very good to know. And a question– it says, what if you’re quarantined for two weeks with COVID. How do you make it up, or do you fail? I certainly hope you wouldn’t fail them for being sick.

DAPHNE KING: No, so the University has policies that we all follow as instructors related to COVID and if someone tests positive for COVID and has to quarantine. Again, with your practicums, it is like you’re going to a job. So the same way that you would let your job know that you’re sick, you wouldn’t need to let your supervisor at your practicum agency know that you’re sick, you have to quarantine.

And there are opportunities to make up hours. So of course we’re not going to fail anyone if they have to quarantine. And this is something that we’ve been dealing with for– what– the last two and 1/2 years. And so the University has also given us standards and processes to follow if students do test positive and they have to quarantine.

The one thing that I will say– and again, both Morgan and Lila stressed this– is communication. You need to communicate up front and communicate quickly and regularly with your instructors, your placement supervisors, and everyone that’s involved with your educational journey here at George Mason. Communication is going to be key.

And I think it is awesome that Morgan and Lila or popping into the chat. Some resources for you all, which we always advocate for students to use. So again, but you really want to communicate those things upfront.

SUSAN: Absolutely. And a student is asking, what if one is interested in other specializations than those offered, such as mental health, substance abuse, et cetera.

DAPHNE KING: So think of the specializations in terms of, these are just populations that you will work. Within those specializations, you’re going to do mental health. You’re going to have times where you can focus on substance use. Mental health and substance abuse are not necessarily specializations. They are different– how do I want to say it– they’re different areas within the field.

So when I first started in social work, I did work in mental health, but the population I worked with was youth and teenagers. So that’s really what those two specializations are. They are just the population that you want to work with.

I worked with adult males in halfway houses that covered substance abuse. So don’t lock yourself into thinking that these specializations are going to stifle you. These just are the populations that you may want to work with.

And it really is a University requirement that students have to declare a specialization. And one thing that I do talk to students about that are starting specialization is also thinking about, regardless of what specialization you declare, you can take courses in that other specialization as your electives to give you a little bit more of a well-rounded base. We do have an elective related to substance use interventions. So you can also get some knowledge through the electives.

And social work is a field that is lifelong learning. So once you finish the MSW and you go on to get licensed, you’re going to always have to take continuing education things. And so through workshops in different other certifications, you can get some other experience under your belt as well.

SUSAN: Great. And are there many internships/practicums that are along the lines of macro-social work and not solely clinical work?

DAPHNE KING: We have had some students that have had some macro placements, one specifically I know at the office is for the National Association of Social Workers. So again, those are things that you will work with the Field Education Office on. But there are some opportunities for macro.

One of the great things about Mason is because we are so close to the District of Columbia where we know it’s the capital of our country, and so that is a great location for us to be. So we do have those partnerships.

SUSAN: That’s great.

DAPHNE KING: And we have many faculty members who have also engaged in macro practice and macro social work. So you will also get that experience through working with various faculty.

SUSAN: Amazing, that’s great. That really is.

So there’s two questions. Two students want to know is if they’re graduating with the BSW, should they go straight into the advanced standing. Or is it OK to take a gap year?

DAPHNE KING: It is totally OK to take a gap year. When I got my MSW, it was probably three or four years after I finished undergrad. It’s OK to take a year off.

I would definitely recommend in that year continuing to engage with the profession, continuing to work or volunteer in social work-related areas. But you don’t have to go right into graduate school from a BSW. I would definitely make sure that if you want to do advanced standing you stay within that five-year time frame. But I think it’s totally fine to take a year off.

SUSAN: Fantastic. And there’s a couple questions, again, a lot of them actually with enrollment. But frequently I’m asked, how many hours do you typically spend a week as students on assignments.

DAPHNE KING: So I am going to give an answer, and then I’m going to let Morgan and Lila answer as well. With the MSW program, we’ve tried to do a little bit of research. And in developing courses, we try to keep it to where students should be spending I think 10 to 15 hours a week studying is what we try to average with the courses. But I will let Morgan and Lila speak to that as well.

LILA ELLIOTT: And so the question was that they wanted to know how many hours we study per week. I think it’s fair to say that it’s going to vary. So mine may not be the same as Morgan’s. It depends on– and also to a side note, GMU is definitely supportive of learning disabilities. Everyone learns differently. And I think that’s very important for everybody to know.

For me, I have to maybe read an article for an assignment or discussion post maybe twice. I will definitely tell you and support what Morgan said in regards to the read-alouds. I also have a child that has an IEP. So I adopted that from the local school districts about the read aloud functions on our devices, such as I have iMac, but also my laptop or things like that.

So I would say, for me, it takes maybe 10 to 15 hours a week for me to get through one course of studies, but Morgan may tell you, OK, it may take her four. So it does vary. But you have to do what works for you. It’s not a certain amount of time. But also again, communicate with your professor because they may not know.

And also, too, it might just be a difficult week for you outside of school. And so you might be a little off sidetracked by other things, external components, so just be mindful of that. But for me, 10 to 15 hours a week that I dedicate, because you know that, I got these A’s and I have to maintain it and model that for my children. So I put in time so I can reap the benefits in the long-run.

SUSAN: Thank you.

MORGAN MOORE: So I want to chime in. There are multiple factors that’s going to change how you approach the course. That’s why I was trying to say, if you can structure it in a way that you’re building off of it for yourself and what you want to gain from the course. But overall, I would say 10 to 15 hours. I probably do more because I’m reading extra and listening to more and I’m a little bit of a research-aholic.

And I’m sure Dr. King will attest to how much I love my research. I could go on and on forever. And so I’d probably take longer. But that is not the norm.

I’m going to extra beyond. My discussion questions are far more intense than what is required, because I’m doing it for me and what I want to get from it. But again, it’s how you’re going to approach it.

But I would say the minimum would be 10 to 15 hours. And if you have a paper due that week that might be something that you’re struggling with, it may take a little bit longer. But you might make it up on another week where you have a shorter, lighter week.

So again, it just depends. And I know you guys want that direct answer. And I wanted that answer too when I walked in. But you’re going to find your rhythm. You’re going to find your groove. And it’s just going to be part of your day. And that’s what I want to say you do. Make it part of your day make it part of your process so you’re not waiting till the last minute.

I try to do my stuff early. So if I get that inevitable COVID hit that I’m still waiting for– I know it’s going to come for me one day– or my children get sick, something’s going to happen, I have that buffer. And you’re going to find that peace within yourself when you go through the program.

So to experience it, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different for how it works for your lifestyle and everything else like that. My husband’s deployed. I’m a mom with three kids, I home school. I’m autistic, too. I have autistic kids. We all learn differently.

And I fully support someone– don’t be afraid or deterred. There are supports, there’s community. And you can outreach to other people. So I fully support it, go for it.

DAPHNE KING: And thank you both. And I like that both of you said it depends on really your learning style and your process. And Morgan is a researcher, and Morgan loves research. So I do know that she does spend extra time.

But one of the things that I think she brought up with that I do want to make sure that you all think about as well, Morgan researches because these are topics that she’s interested in. And there are also things that she wants to pursue professionally once she finishes her MSW.

And also think about your courses as you are beginning to build your professional library. You’re building your professional footprint, so to speak. So I would recommend from the first course you take, structuring all of your papers around populations in areas of social work that you want to work in, especially if you think you may want to go on beyond the MSW and pursue a doctorate, or you just want to continue research. You want to make sure that you start focusing on that while you’re getting your MSW.

I have students that I had in courses that they, for one course, they did a project on a certain population and they developed this program. And then for my program evaluation course, they use that same program from their policy course. And they were able to connect their interest from the moment they started in the program until now them finishing. And you can tell that it connected for that student one through her grades and through the fact that it was a topic that she was interested in and something that she was continuing to pursue. So you do want to make sure your research is connecting to things that you are interested in.

SUSAN: So question, Dr. King. Is it OK for students who aren’t sure of what they want to pursue in terms of specialization? Is it OK to not know right away?

DAPHNE KING: It is absolutely OK. You don’t have to actually declare your specialization when you enter the program. Typically when you are, I’m going to say, maybe halfway through your generalist courses, we will start talking to you about declaring your specialization.

I will hold another meeting with students that goes through the specializations in more detail. But we do have a time frame for the University that students have to declare their specialization. But you don’t have to do that when you first enter the program.

And I have some students that when they started they declared one specialization. And then through taking various courses and electives, they determined that they wanted to choose a different specialization. It’s totally fine.

SUSAN: Gotcha, yeah. So don’t freak out. Because on the application, we do have put in a specialization. But it’s not in stone, so you can change it.

DAPHNE KING: Right, no, you’re not locked into it. And when you identify the specialization on your application, it’s not necessarily going beyond the application at that point because we do have a specific form once you get into the program that students will complete to declare your specialization.

SUSAN: Good to know. Gosh, great questions. So a student here who’s interested in applying has a master’s in Early Childhood for 25 years. She’s a little bit hesitant about the tech side. Can you all offer any insight into that?

DAPHNE KING: I’m sorry, what was the question?

SUSAN: Oh, yeah, so there’s someone– Laura– received her master’s in Early Childhood Education 25 years ago. And she’s super excited about returning to the classroom, but she’s concerned about that tech aspect.

Full disclosure– I’m technologically challenged. I’ve taken courses on Blackboard, literally. I always tell my applicants, if I can do it, anybody on the planet can do it. No lie. But what do you all have to say to add to that?

DAPHNE KING: There is a lot of support for the technical things. When you get into your courses, at the bottom of every page in your course, there is going to be a phone number for IT support. So that is there. But so don’t be afraid of the technology. But I’ll let Lila and Morgan talk about the technology as well.

LILA ELLIOTT: So for me, I would definitely benefit from doing– when you first start your course– I’m talking in a foreign language because you all can’t see it. But on the left side is different titles and topics. And so Getting Started is going to be the grits– you know, meat, grits– yeah, that.

So that is going to help everyone because it starts from the basic. A, B, C is going to be simple. You have this. You got it.

And then you can use Dr. King’s tip about contacting IT. But I will assure you, if you start at the Getting Started, it will walk you through everything. It’s almost like a dry run.

And I think when I started, I think I got an invitation for a dry-run Blackboard session or something. I can’t–

SUSAN: Yes, yes.


SUSAN: The Orientation to Blackboard.


SUSAN: Prior to class starting.

LILA ELLIOTT: Yes, so take advantage of that. And you can’t go wrong because it’s pretty much– I forgot what it was called, but it was like a test run, a dry run, and so it’s easy. It really is.

And you’ll find that a lot of times other universities use the same type of system. So just be mindful that. It’s not intimidating. And you’re fine.

MORGAN MOORE: I want to piggyback on that. The biggest issue I had at starting was there are many different portals you have to log into. There’s Patriot Pass, there’s Blackboard, there’s your email.

And once you get over that hump, that was the hardest hump for me. And I actually had to call IT. And they were so helpful and kind. They did not think I was slow or anything else like that.

And I grew up on technology, I assure you. So when it comes to Blackboard, think of it as different modules on the side that she was talking about. You have your Getting Started. And it is divvied up by week.

And inside that folder for your week, it tells you what your learning objectives are, what your learning resources are, what assignments are going to be due, and anything else they want to add. So it’s like a little mini-folder, like a little tree. It’s going to grow with you. And you’re just going to keep completing it.

Then you’re going to have your discussion questions in another little folder. And you can answer that. And if there was one tip I had four Blackboard, I wish it alerted me when people responded directly to me, like send me a little email or text. That’s not for George Mason– that’s for Blackboard interface software developers. That would make it more interesting and interactive.

But that’s just me. Again, I’m the research person. I want to have these conversations. I recognize I’m the oddball. But you will find it’s not as overwhelming, and people will help you, and people have patience with you.

And I think one of the biggest things you’re getting into when you’re walking into social work is you’re walking it into a community that is automatically going to love you, that wants to be inclusive, that wants to help you find your journey. So you’re already walking into a field that wants to do that. So I think you’re going to be in good hands. And again, don’t let that intimidate you. You’re walking into warmth and love and people that just want to help.

SUSAN: Well, that’s so wonderful to hear.

DAPHNE KING: And we also do a student orientation. And so at the student orientation, we do have someone present from Mason on technology and things that you should be aware of and things that you want to plan for with technology.

And also for students in the online program, I do a quarterly meeting. And at some of the meetings, I also have someone from IT come in and talk about some technology tips for students. So you will get support with the technology.

SUSAN: That’s awesome, that’s great. And it’s 8:03 and I need to be aware of your time and be appreciative of it. So we’re going to go ahead. And I’m happy to stay on to answer your admissions questions.

But one final question– they’re asking, what is the average page length of the research papers. I would assume it would depend on the topic. But Dr. King, if you would go ahead and answer that.

DAPHNE KING: It depends on the course and it depends on the topic some most of the generalist courses, the papers are between, I would say, three to 10 pages. When you get to your specialization courses, those papers will be more like six to 12 pages. Depends on the paper and it depends on the course.

For the Program Evaluation course and the Policy course that I teach, some papers are six pages in length and some are like 12 to 15. So it just depends on the course.

SUSAN: OK. And when you’re doing your externship, you said that it’s either 16 hours or 20 hours a week, depending on whether it’s a generalist or a specialization. You take a seminar class along with that. Is there study time for that seminar class?

DAPHNE KING: So the seminar class is not the traditional class format. The seminar class is really meant to complement the internship. There are some assignments, but the assignments are really more so related to submitting certain documents related to the field practicum.

So you may not necessarily do like a traditional paper in the seminar course. But you’re going to be doing assignments related to your practicum.

I did see the question in the chat related to advanced standing versus the traditional online program. So the standard online program is 60 credits to complete. Event standing is 33 credits to complete. So that’s the difference in the two.

SUSAN: Exactly. And I’m happy to answer any of your questions regarding that. So again, ladies, thank you so much for your time. It was so great to meet you all and hear input about this terrific program.

Again, you’re more than welcome to stay on if you want. But you’ve been very generous with your time already. I am happy to stay on and answer those remaining questions regarding admissions. So thank you again. It’s been absolutely terrific, so.

LILA ELLIOTT: Thank you.

SUSAN: Yeah, appreciate it. Oh, so Morgan, you’re going into answering the typical class size. So thank you for that. You’re saving me trouble. Are you typing an answer for that. Oh, it says that you’re typing an answer.

So the typical class size is 25 people. Is that correct that you typically cap it off at? Is that correct, Dr. King?

DAPHNE KING: Yes, we cap it at 25.

SUSAN: OK, that’s what I thought. The minimum GPA required for admissions is a 3.0. However, if you are close to that, the wonderful thing is is that we look at you as a person. We look at you holistically. So we’re going to look at your background, your volunteer experience, your work experience.

And the wonderful thing as well is we allow you to write a GPA addendum, which allows you to address why your grades weren’t as high as expected. So maybe it was from years back and you were young and inexperienced and you’ve grown and changed. So again, we look at holistically for that. So Jane, I hope we answered that for you.

And I don’t understand this one. If we applied for the fall, do we have to reapply if we are not advanced standing. So if you have a BSW, you are eligible for the advanced standing, as long as you’ve graduated within five years and you have a GPA of 3.2.

Now that is a hard requirement, a GPA of 3.2. If you don’t have that GPA of 3.2, Admissions would suggest that you apply for the general one. Dr. King, is that correct?

DAPHNE KING: That is correct. But there are also a few other different requirements to apply for advanced standing. Like, you have to have your BSW field evaluation. And it is a little bit of a different application process. So if you’ve already applied for the traditional online program for fall semester and you’re thinking you want to apply for the advanced standing and you do have the BSW, I would just recommend reaching out to the admissions rep again that worked with you.

SUSAN: Exactly.

DAPHNE KING: It’s a little bit different requirements and it is a different application process.

SUSAN: Exactly. OK, and, oh so, I know that you all have a particular class progression. Is it possible to double up and complete it faster? Like in other words, take two courses every eight weeks when you’re doing the didactic courses online?

DAPHNE KING: What was the first– I’m sorry, what was the first part of the question?

SUSAN: Oh yeah, OK, so when you’re doing your online courses, you take one class every eight week, semester is 16 weeks, so you’re completing two courses a semester. If you wanted to complete it faster, is that a possibility?

DAPHNE KING: It is a possibility, but that would require a conversation with me, because that will require approval from the Department, which would be– starting point would be me. So we would need to have a conversation and really talk about it.

It’s not something that I would recommend for students in your first semester, because you are adjusting to graduate school. But there are opportunities for students to take more than two classes each semester. Again, that is just a conversation that is on an individual basis that we would need to have.

SUSAN: OK, wonderful. And Summer’s asking, how long after we submit our application do we get that decision back from admissions?

DAPHNE KING: So I am part of the process for that decision. Generally, I have a certain number of days that I have to go in and review admissions applications and give a decision.


DAPHNE KING: And so I believe it’s within five days. But sometimes, depending on the application and just making sure that all the materials are there, it could take a little bit longer. But I’m supposed to go in within five days of getting notification that the application is ready.

SUSAN: OK, so let me interject as well, though. So I typically tell students– because then they get panicky if it’s not within the five days. So they start freaking out. We can’t have any freak outs.

So after you submit your file, it goes up to a department that looks over the paperwork to make sure everything’s in order, because we don’t want Dr. King to come back and say, you know what, this paper is missing. So it goes through that first and then it goes to Admissions.

So typically, just relax, give it some time. But boy, five days, that’s spectacular. But don’t be surprised if it’s a little bit longer, OK, because we review the paperwork to make sure everything’s in order.

So we do have some questions regarding licensure. Oops, sorry about that. And so it’s saying, is there a licensure for MSW after completing the program. And the answer is yes. Dr. King, do you want to elaborate on that?

DAPHNE KING: So probably after finishing your MSW, and it depends on where you want to work if you actually get licensed. Every employer does not require a license. So most social workers, they do want to get that licensed clinical social worker license. That is the license that you want to have if you do want to work in private practice or you want to practice independently.

With the LCSW– and I can only speak to the state of Virginia because that’s where I’m licensed– it is a different process. You have to actually work a certain number of years or a certain number of hours post-MSW before you can even apply for licensure. And it is a whole process.

When you apply for licensure, you’re actually applying to take the licensing exam in the state of Virginia. You also have to have so many hours of supervision post-MSW. And that’s supervision is different than your supervisor at your job. This supervision requires you to be supervised by another LCSW. Now there are some agencies that do offer supervision for the LCSW licensure process.

SUSAN: OK, so, Dr. King, I think you froze for a second.

DAPHNE KING: I did, I’m sorry about that. So there are some agencies that they will offer supervision for your LCSW, but it really depends on the agency. Now when you graduate with your MSW, again, some employers or some agencies will ask you to get what may be an LMSW license, which is the License Master Social Worker.

Or in DC, when I finished my master’s degree, I had to get an LGSW in order to work at the agency. And that’s a Licensed Graduate Social Worker. And those are typically the first basic license you can get before getting the LCSW. Again, it really is going to depend on the agency or employer that you’re working for.

What I recommend to students is if you’re thinking about licensure to start looking at the website for the Virginia Board of Social Workers or wherever state you’re in to start looking at the licensing board for your state, because each state is also going to have different requirements. From what I have seen, Virginia has the most stringent requirements. So if you get licensed in Virginia, typically you could get reciprocity in other jurisdictions. But the LCSW would be the license that you want if you want to practice independently in private practice.

SUSAN: Right. And in the email information that we send out to you, when you speak to an admissions rep we do provide you with a link of the requirements for the various states.

And we have someone who is asking if the application process is different for international students. And yes, it is. So I encourage you to contact us, contact Admissions– I put it in the chat before– and we’d be happy to walk you through that process.

And another student is, if you applied for advance but are denied, do you reapply for the regular one. The answer would be yes, but most likely the admissions reps aren’t going to put you through if you’re not a strong, solid candidate for the advanced standing. Again– go ahead.

DAPHNE KING: But also clarify. So for advanced standing, when you apply for advanced standing, you’re really also applying for the interview, because there is an interview process with advanced standing.


DAPHNE KING: So generally what happens is you’re applying for advanced standing and if you meet the first criteria, you’re invited for the interview. You have to go through an interview before you are accepted into advanced standing. So if you are invited for the interview for advanced standing, generally if you’re invited for the interview, then you’re pretty much already admitted into the traditional or standard online program.

If you did apply for advanced standing, and when I review the applications, and if you don’t necessarily meet the four criteria to be accepted into advanced standing or to be referred for the interview, then I will say that this person is admitted to the regular online program. So you don’t have to reapply for the traditional online program if you don’t get into advanced standing.

SUSAN: Thank you so much for that clarification. Yes, very important. So yes, the field experience email, if you scroll up in the chat, it was Dr. King had input it.

So another question, if I’m not advanced standing and have a BS in Psychology, you said I don’t need to reapply for the general admissions.


SUSAN: They would need to apply for the general MSW, correct?

DAPHNE KING: Right, if you do not have a BSW, you would be applying for the traditional standard online program. You can only apply for advanced standing if you have a BSW.

SUSAN: Yeah, correct, OK. And then finally, the final question– again, wonderful questions. Do you accept Yellow Ribbon scholarship? So Ginny, you’re in the military. And so we are a Yellow Ribbon school. And we have an outreach office for the military.

And it’s weird, it says Lila’s typing an answer. You must be typing in the chat or something like that. OK, there you go. So I can provide you with that information where you can reach out to the military department at Mason and they can answer all of your questions for that.

And gosh, thank you so much for staying over and answering all these great questions. Again, please reach out to your admissions rep if you have further questions regarding the application process. And if you don’t have an admissions rep, please go ahead and reach out to us.

Again, it’s at the top of the chat feature. And I’m happy to assist you. I’ll go ahead and post it again. Here, I’ll go ahead and copy and paste it again at the bottom there for you all, but–

DAPHNE KING: And I know someone was asking in the chat if you needed to have volunteer hours. You don’t need to have volunteer hours before you apply. It is helpful if you have some experience or you can demonstrate some social work-related experience, but it’s not a requirement.

SUSAN: Yeah, no, thank you so much. This has been so informative. Thank you everyone for joining us. And I hope you all have a lovely evening. Thanks again. Bye.


MHA Health Systems Management Transcript

JANESSA: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our virtual open house for the online Master’s of Health Administration program here at George Mason.

We are very excited to get started have everyone join us. I am just going to wait a little while though. I want to give everyone a little bit of time to join in case they’re on their lunch break. Or joining in a different setting.

So I want to give everyone a chance to get used to the Zoom platform, get logged in. While we’re waiting though if you guys wouldn’t mind practice utilizing the boxes on your screen.

So you should see two. There is a chat box, and there is a question and answers box. Feel free to use either of them for questions. But right now, go ahead and utilize the chat function.

Let us know where you’re joining us from. It’s lunch time so maybe what you’re having for lunch or what your favorite meal is. But go ahead and just let me know the audio is coming through clearly, you’re able to hear us.

We’ll get started in just a few minutes as everyone is starting to trickle in.

Also, while you are chatting, there’s two different options. So make sure you see who you are sending your chats to. You can send them to just the host and panelists, or you can send it to everyone. Up to you. I’ll be able to see it, but go ahead and just let us know that you can hear us.

OK. We have some chips, and Oh. It’s well balanced. We’ve got some kale and yogurt with Doritos. I like it. I did a quick lunch and had a hard boiled egg. So we are running on fumes here, but where we’re going good. Perfect. All right. Looks like everyone can hear us.


JANESSA: Hey, everyone.

MARIA URIYO: Michigan. Virginia.

JANESSA: Yeah. All on the East Coast over here it, looks like.

MARIA URIYO: Starbucks. Yes.

JANESSA: Ooh. BOGO Starbucks. How did you run across that deal?


JANESSA: Yeah. A little bit of everywhere. OK. All right. Well, thank you guys for spending your lunch breaks or whatever time it is where you are with us. We appreciate it, really here just to make sure you guys have a thorough understanding of our program. We are joined today with some faculty, so I want to give them a chance to introduce themselves in just a moment.

But it looks like everything’s going well. So I’m going to go ahead and just get started. Again, throughout the presentation, please feel free to utilize the chat, as well as the questions and answers function through Zoom. I’m going to be keeping an eye on both of them. So happy to touch base on either of them.

My name again is Janessa. I am an admissions representative here with our online program, here as a resource to share information, answer questions, guide you through the application process, if it’s something you decide to move forward with or you’re already working towards.

I am joined this afternoon with our program coordinator, Dr. Uriyo, who you will meet very, very shortly. But, again, excited to have everyone here to learn about the program.

Again, before we jump into everything, just a few housekeeping. There is the chat and the questions box. Feel free to utilize them as you wish. We do have a dedicated time for questions and answers towards the end of the presentation.

So we want to make sure, we have a lot of information to cover, that we are staying on track. So we’ll make sure to address all of those towards the end, unless something is pressing and really relates to what we’re discussing at the moment.

Without further ado, go ahead and start by introducing– oh, we’re going to go over our agenda first. So today as I mentioned earlier, we are joined by some faculty. Our program director is not able to make it this afternoon. But we will hear a little bit about her.

We will also hear from our program coordinator, Dr. Uriyo. We’ll go over some of the competencies of our MHA program, as well as the accreditation. You can learn a little bit more about that from our end, we have our capstone project. We’ll give you some examples of that, what you can expect from it.

Some of our extracurriculars, how you can meet some other students get involved outside of just the classes.

A little bit more about how our online format is going to work, what it’s going to consist of, and then our career outlooks. What you can expect leaving the program. And then review some of our admissions requirements and some questions and answers.

All right, so Dr. Uriyo, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a little overview of our program director, Dr. Sheingold.

MARIA URIYO: OK. Thank you so much. So I’ll be talking, but my camera will be off. I’m just going to begin. Welcome everybody today, and I really appreciate the opportunity that you’re giving us talk about our program, and to encourage you to apply.

So Dr. Sheingold, who is the program director, couldn’t make it today. But briefly, she has a dual degree from George Mason University in public policy and nursing, as well as a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, where she got her certificate in Women’s Leadership and Change Management.

She also is a nurse by training, and she practiced for more than 20 years in emergency nursing, in the emergency department. She also pioneered the sexual assault nurse examiner procedure in Arlington, Virginia, to provide medical forensic care to survivors of sexual assault.

So me and Dr. Sheingold, we work really closely together for both– so, she oversees the on campus students, and I oversee the online students. So we work really closely together. Next slide, please.

So, I’m the assistant professor in the MHA online program, and the MHA online program coordinator in the department. Before joining George Mason University, I was a program director at Medicalincs, an independent, minority-owned health care consulting firm that is located in Maryland.

And in that organization, I oversaw the rare and expensive medical conditions program that provided care to clients residing in some of the counties within Maryland. Before joining Medicalincs, I was the program manager of NCQA accreditation at Johns Hopkins Health Care in Glen Burnie, Maryland. So next slide, please.

OK. So in terms of the MHA program, it’s CAHME accredited, and it was accredited in 2019. And so the program is designed to develop student proficiency in the competencies that are necessary for future success within the health care sector.

So we look at the following domains. We look at knowledge of the health care system and health care management. We look at communications and interpersonal effectiveness. We go into critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving. Management and leadership. Professionalism and ethics.

So each domain has multiple competencies, and the program has 16 different classes. And each of them add up to about four to seven credits. So as you enroll in the different classes, you can look at the syllabus and each syllabus will tell you what competency the material covering, what competency their aligned to. So next slide, please.

So when it comes to one of the requirements from CAHME is that students need to finish the class by doing a capstone project. So in terms of this composition of the students that we have, about 69% of the students in our program are from like Virginia, Maryland and DC area, while about 31% are from the surrounding states like California, New York, Hawaii, West Virginia, Georgia, for example.

So since the capstone is the culminating experience, we require that students reach out and connect to health care organizations, either where they’re working, or organization that they would like to get into. And identify a preceptor.

And the preceptor would then assign you a project that is critical to the organization. So that the result of your project would enable them to move to come to a solution, or move towards a solution.

Typically, the capstone project is the last class you take and it is going to require you to complete everything within six weeks. So the scope and the scale of your work should be contained within those six weeks.

And again, we as a faculty, me and Dr. Sheingold, are the ones who oversee this class. And we work closely with you to make sure that you are able to meet the milestones that we give throughout the eight week period.

The class is opened, typically, because of the work that you’re supposed to put into it we usually open it 10 weeks before the actual start time, so that you’re able to use that time to identify who your preceptor would be. And to get all the documentation necessary done ahead of time so that, when the window opens, when the class opens, you are on your way and ready to go.

We give you more details, but essentially the preceptor cannot be your direct boss. If you are, let’s say you are in some hospital by the name of X. Your preceptor cannot be your direct supervisor in that X organization.

It can be somebody in another department who can be the preceptor for your project. So next slide, please.

So these are just some places that students are currently going to do their capstone project at, and are currently also doing the projects at MedStar INOVA, Culpepper Garden, Sibley, NOVA Scripts Central.

So these are just a few. There are many more. I just wanted to highlight as an idea of where our students go to. Actually, can you go back to the slide before, please?

In some aspects, when it comes to the capstone project, some preceptors allow for work to be done remotely. Some require for you to come on-site. And some do hybrid.

So, let’s say you are in California, and you’re working for a hospital out there in California. You are able to do your capstone research in the organization, that’s fine.

But if you are unable to find a location, we have a student who is in California. And they are doing their project for Culpepper Gardens, which is located in Arlington County in Virginia. So any barrier you encounter, we always look for solutions, and finding ways to help you succeed, help you finish the program on time and successfully.

So, aside from just taking classes, we are very interested in making sure that you are able to involve and engage in activities outside of the classroom.

So, the first bullet point there, RHLM, is a student-led organization from the Health Department for the MHA students.

And by default, all MHA students enrolled in the master’s program become members of this organization. They have their own dedicated website within our course management site. We use Blackboard.

So right in there, when you enroll, you find yourself enrolled in that group, and we use that group to communicate opportunities, provide you with opportunities to engage, and take part in some leadership experiences. So, even become leaders of that organization as well.

The other one is the National Capital Healthcare Executives, which is part of the NCHE. So, you can become a member of that in this Northern Virginia area.

And because, as I said because 69% of the students are within the Northern Virginia area, you’re able to network with the hospitals around here, the executives around here. Also the students from other local universities like George Washington, Georgetown, so things like that. Those opportunities are available.

Other organizations are AcademyHealth. They have a student chapter. We have a faculty who also oversees that chapter, so you can engage and take part in all the different programs that they offer.

The last bullet there I will talk about is the National Case Competitions. We encourage students to take part in these competitions. And students, irregardless of geography, are able to partner up. And we assign a faculty to oversee that effort. And students run away with it, and compete.

So there shouldn’t be any barriers to prevent you from taking part in these case competitions. Next slide, please.

I wanted to share these slides. This picture, these are some students who, even during the pandemic, took part in case competitions. And, on the top right, you can see, because of the COVID pandemic, some of the case competitions went virtual. And we had three students here who were able to participate and compete, and won first place.

I think where there’s a will, there’s a way. And if you’re interested, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t engage yourself. Next slide.

Just additional pictures of students who have taken part in the case competitions in previous years.

You are applying for the online program. The online program is similar to the traditional on-campus program. They’re basically all the same. Just the mode of delivery is different.

One is in-person. The other one is online. You are all taking the same material, being taught the same subjects.

And also, we have over 15 faculty members, and four of those are full time and the rest are just part time. And 86% of applicants who apply into the program are accepted into the program.

So it’s very flexible. The online program is very flexible. You are able to take the classes, typically they are offered at the end of the day. Some of them are asynchronous, meaning you can take them at your own pace, at your own time within the eight week time frame. So they are deadline driven.

And you can only take one class within an eight week period. We do not allow for people taking more than one class within an eight week period. And this is also a requirement that we standardize how we offer our classes across the board.

So again, the total credit hours is for the 7. And we are ranked 33rd nationally by US News and World Report.

And the picture down here is the current leadership in the RHLM organization. The lady to the right is the president of the organization. And actually, they have been very instrumental this year in creating and putting together a symposium that will be taking place on March 19. Collaborating with NCHE and SCHE.

So the event is free. Because of that, it has filled up very quickly. But again, these are the things that you can engage and take part in when you become a student at George Mason University. Next slide, please.

When it comes to career outlook, at least within three months of graduating from the program, 93% of the students have indicated that they’ve gotten work in the field of interest.

Many of our students go work in hospitals, health systems, consulting and regulatory entities, managed care organizations, local, state, and federal government agencies.

We also have students who are also within the military, and so that’s another location where students also continue to grow within their roles.

Because of you all taking this degree for growth, for targeting. I don’t know where you want to go, but I would encourage you to engage with each other, because you may find that people some students are working in organizations that you are interested in.

And we encourage students to network within themselves and network within the faculty, and a lot of the classes that we teach we bring in external speakers.

And if what the speaker is speaking about captivates you, keep the contacts and maintain a communication channel with them. Because you can find that you use them for your capstone project and then opportunities may open up and you may find your next place to work at or growth in your career.

So, these are the admission requirements. You need to complete an online application. There is a $75 application fee.

You need to also provide us with your resume, two letters of recommendation, and an essay that talks about why it is that you’re interested in the program. Why are you interested in the master’s degree? And how do you see yourself using it?

We also require minimum GPA of 3.0. And you would have to submit your undergraduate, and if you’ve taken some partial graduate classes also, you have to submit those as well.

There will also be a video interview. The ones I’ve seen, typically they’re between five to 10 minutes. And those interviews are being provided by the admissions office. So you’ll work closely with them as you go through the application process, and they will guide you as to when to do what, when.

So when it comes to the application we look at the whole application holistically, and to determine whether it’s a yes, we want to move forward, or not. So, that’s it. Next slide.

This is the phone number you can use to either call or send an email if you have any questions about the program, or the application process.

JANESSA: Yes. Thank you so much Dr. Uriyo. We really appreciate it. We’re really here as a resource for you guys, so we want to make sure that we’re able to address any questions.

I know we were emailed in some questions before the start of the open house earlier this week. So I do have a list of those. So I’ll run through those in just a moment. But also, please feel free everyone. Utilize the chat function.

If you’re more comfortable with the questions and answers, go ahead and start sending those in. I’ll be monitoring those, and reading them aloud for Dr. Uriyo to answer.

But to get started, there’s a lot of fears with an online program, as far as how faculty maintains communication with them. So are there opportunities to network with faculty specifically? Do professors still hold office hours in the online setting?

MARIA URIYO: Yes. In each class that you enroll in, professors will indicate what their office hours are like. And most examples I’ve seen are either you can email them, or they are available at any given time.

But most professors will respond to questions from students at any time. So I would say that students shouldn’t feel that they’re going to be hindered in by taking an online class versus being in-person.

Because communication is key, and the success of the program requires that communication to be healthy and to be active.

JANESSA: OK. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Yeah, that’s a huge concern that we get so nice to know that faculty is still going to be there for questions. We’re not just throwing you guys into a course, and saying good luck.

MARIA URIYO: Yeah. And then, I will add to that, because as an online coordinator, I work with some of the adjunct faculty. And then also the we have success coaches as well. So if there are any issues, concerns, our students have several ways in which of communicating with the program, with me, concerning issues in the class or issues that they’re having so they can be resolved.

JANESSA: OK. Wonderful. Yeah, the student success coaches are there throughout the entire duration of your program. So feel free to reach out to them as a resource as well. Let’s see. All right, so I know we had one question to ask about some requirements from applying internationally.

So, our international status is determined by where you most recently received your degree from. So your most recent degree, what country that school is located in.

I would recommend reaching out to your admissions representative. If you don’t have one, we will have one reach out to you after the open house. But we will essentially need to have your degree evaluated through one of our nascent agencies.

Most typically, we see utilized West World Education Services and ECE. But we’ll need a course by course evaluation. It can come from any of those agencies to determine the equivalency, and then we will also typically need some type of English fluency exam. We have a few different options listed on our website.

But again, our faculty and our admissions representatives, will be able to determine exactly what would be best in your situation.

Then, Dr. Uriel we had a question about the GPA requirement. Is there any flexibility around that 3.0?

MARIA URIYO: Yes. There is flexibility around that 3.0. So any student who has a GPA below 3.0 they are required to write an essay as to why that was the case. And then we will look at the whole application, and then make our determination.

JANESSA: Yeah. Wonderful. Yeah, usually your admissions representative will let you know that they’re going to be asking for a GPA, we call it a GPA explanation. Just the circumstances behind why your GPA was a little bit lower. Maybe anything that you’ve done since then can really just help give the committee a holistic view of the circumstances behind it.

MARIA URIYO: Yeah. And students who enroll with a GPA that is less than 3.0, they are given two semesters where they have to ensure that they get a grade of a B or better in the classes that enroll. That’s a requirement.

JANESSA: Perfect. Thank you for that. Going off of some other ones that were submitted ahead. But again, guys, feel free to utilize that questions and answers. What is the committee typically looking for in regards to applicant?

So is this a good program directly out of undergrad? Or are there more students who are coming with a little bit more work experience.

MARIA URIYO: We have a whole range, from those who are coming straight from undergrad to those who have worked for many years. And the criteria we look at is the same. What they write. Why are they interested in the program.

We also look at the interview. How the student carries themselves. How they answer the questions. How they have written their essay.

We also look at the resume, and see what they’ve been involved in. So, the whole range of things. And we are very keen these days to know– careers are never static. People change careers at any time. And, so we want to see how can we be partners, to make sure that your next move makes you successful.

So, I think the main thing, I’ll just throw the ball back to the applicant, is to make sure that they sell that clearly so that we can see how can we engage and partner with you to make you successful.

JANESSA: Wonderful. Thank you. I know I definitely worked with individuals who are wrapping up their bachelor’s degree, as well as have quite a few years of work experience.

And, one of the things we always share in our office is just make sure when you’re writing your personal statement, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind after they read that this is the career that you’re looking to get into. This is the degree that’s going to help you reach your goals. Making sure that you’re selling that, and making sure it’s evident that this is what you’re looking for. Definitely helps to boost your file a little bit.


JANESSA: All right. Let’s see. Are there any– and I know you said careers are static, everyone’s changing. But is there a specific field, or are they coming from the same background? Or is it kind of a melting pot of different backgrounds that we’re seeing in the program.

MARIA URIYO: I’m seeing a melting pot. I have students who are graduating with maybe a bachelor and biology. Students who are graduating who have come from working in behavioral health. People who are working in dental offices.

Some students who are in the military, working in the military, military background. So it’s really very, very wide ranging. But there’s always a reason they give is to why they want to get into health care.

And the MHA degree, and the classes you take, and the capstone you will be engaged in, will give you the tools to be able to begin your way to successfully grow your career inside the health care sector.

JANESSA: Oh, that’s a really good point. You’re putting into practice everything that you’re learning. So, even if you’re making a career shift, you do have some experience because you’ve been in an organization and you’ve been putting in the work. That’s a fantastic point.

MARIA URIYO: Yeah, and one thing I’ll add is some of the skills in any administrative or managerial management position are skills that are transferable. How you work with people. How you lead. How you are empathetic.

Those are the soft skills, but then now you want to have the health care, the language to develop the language, and know the rules, the law, and things like that.

But then, there are some of these soft skills that you would have acquired if you’ve worked in other organizations, or other if you have not been in health care, per se. But the things you’ve acquired over the years that can transfer.

JANESSA: Yeah, and make sure they include that information on your resume and your essay somewhere so that the faculty can see it so that they can make those connections as well.


JANESSA: Perfect. A few others again sent in earlier this week, some students asking about how the courses are run. So our lectures recorded? I know we have a lot of working individuals.

So how can a student expect a typical course to be run throughout the program?

MARIA URIYO: So typically, most teachers would record the class. Some teachers meet once a week, and they will record the class, and make the material available for the students who haven’t been able to make it to class.

The asynchronous classes, the content in those classes, you have pre-recorded modules that students go through. And then, of course, students can also reach out to faculty for additional meeting times.

If you’re working on a group project, or if you are doing an assignment you need further clarification, the faculty will be available to meet with you at a given time that works between you and her or him. And also, by email as well.

So, make use of Zoom. Make use of all the technology that’s available right now to make sure that you get your questions answered.

JANESSA: Perfect. Can you actually answer another question that had come through about group assignments? Is that something that’s common. Are capstones usually done together? Or is that an individual assignment?

MARIA URIYO: Capstones? Yeah. Capstones are individual assignments. Everybody does it independently.

JANESSA: OK. Wonderful. Thank you. All right. That’s all the questions that I have, everyone. Last chance. Go ahead and send anything through. While we’re waiting, Dr. Uriyo, if you wouldn’t mind sharing a little bit.

I know you had mentioned you are faculty as well. So tell us a little bit about what your favorite classes are to teach so far in the program.

MARIA URIYO: OK. One of the classes that I taught that I really enjoyed was HAP 704, which is current issues in health care. And, in that class, we were dealing with what’s going on right now.

And I made it so that we invited speakers from within the businesses around here from we got the president from INOVA. Dr. Jones, who came and spoke to the class. We’ve had executives from other surrounding hospitals who have also attended and spoken to the students.

So, it’s a good way of teaching because it’s no longer theory. You are also talking to individuals who are actually living it, and actually leading an organization through a really tough period in history. Basically, dealing with the pandemic, and how it’s affected everyone.

So we’ve had these executives coming in, and being willing to give us their time. And speak to our students. And our students networking with them. And learning how to engage these executives who are higher up the chain in these organizations.

JANESSA: That awesome to be able to hear from individuals who are working there, and get their feedback. And see what the field is like. And answer their questions. That’s an invaluable resource that is really great to be able to have in a class.

You have a few more come through. One question is about the capstone. So you mentioned this a little bit earlier, but a prospective applicant asked. For the capstone, do students get to decide what organization they are working with?

MARIA URIYO: Yes. You decide which organization you are interested to work in. The controlling factor is if the principal within the organization is available. We don’t go looking for capstone or preceptors for you. The students go and look for those opportunities.

JANESSA: OK. Perfect. And I know you mentioned earlier that there was a student in California that was actually working with an organization in Virginia.

So, if a student is having difficulties, are there resources available to them to reach out for assistance?

MARIA URIYO: Yes, so they need to reach out to me or Dr. Sheingold. Typically, me and Dr. Sheingold will make sure that we have some just in case situation opportunities set aside, in case students have not been successful in getting a preceptor.

JANESSA: OK. Wonderful. So just making sure you have that open communication. I think we have answered all of them at this point. So again. Last chance everyone to get your questions in. But again, just want to thank everyone for joining us this afternoon.

My name is Janessa. I work in the admissions office here as a resource. If you guys have any questions about your application, or any follow up questions, you can email the email address that’s on your screen or give us a call.

We have someone typically in from 8:30 until 8:00 PM Eastern time. So please feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to meet you wherever you are in the research process.

|f you’re just starting out comparing and contrasting, or if you’re ready to get started on that application to give you an idea of some of our next start dates.

We do have a summer semester that we still are accepting applications for. Our summer application is a little bit earlier than what people typically anticipate for summer. Classes are going to begin late April. So we have a few more weeks for that application.

Something you want to go ahead and get started on. I highly recommend you start that process, reach out to us. Or we’ll have someone reach out to you with some information.

Thank you so much Dr. Uriyo for joining us this afternoon. Truly appreciate it. There’s no other resource that’s as valuable as you guys jumping on, and sharing your time.

It really shows the commitment that our faculty has to our students. And then thank you all of you for joining us, and showing your interest, and being so interactive. We really appreciate it.

It looks like we have some time left, so I’ll go ahead and honor that. Give it back to you guys. Enjoy your afternoon. And we look forward to speaking with you soon.

MARIA URIYO: Oh. There’s a question.

JANESSA: Yeah. Let’s see. Someone asked how many classes they’re taking in a year. And, yes, that is exactly correct. Two fall, two spring, and two summer.

Again, each of the semesters are about 16 weeks. And you’ll do one course at a time. So we’re going to just break that up. It’s going to be a 16 week semester. We’ll split it up into two eight-week sessions. You’ll do one course the first eight weeks, wrap that up, and then start your next course the next eight weeks.

So kind of giving you an idea of how our semesters work right there. But thank you April for that last minute question. And we’ll go ahead and wrap up, but please feel free to let us know if anything else comes up as you guys are continuing to research. And thank you so much for joining us.

MARIA URIYO: Thank you, everyone.

JANESSA: Have a good one.


Master of Education in Special Education and Graduate Certificates Transcript

INTERVIEWER: Awesome. Well, my name’s Stephanie. I’m one of the admissions representatives here in the office. I represent the Master’s of Special Education Program as well as the Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate, as well as the Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate. So if you call into the office, odds are you may get a hold of me or one of my other coworkers. But I’m really excited for you all to join us this afternoon.

I’m going to go ahead and share my screen, and then we’re going to go ahead and get started on this presentation. All righty, there we go. So let’s go to the next one. Awesome, all right. Well, Dr. Jodi Duke, would you mind introducing yourself?

JODI DUKE: Sorry, this is my pre-COVID hair, I need a new picture now that COVID’s happened. I’m Jodi Duke. I am an associate professor at George Mason in the Division of Special Education. I’m the academic program coordinator for the Autism Program as well. And I’ve been at Mason since 2008. I was doing math recently. It’s a lot of years. But I absolutely love being a part of this program and the work that we do.

I actually started, as you can see, in elementary at Michigan. And I was just super distracted by all of the children who had special needs and decided I had gotten really close to what I wanted, but I was a little off. So I switched over to special ed which I’ve been doing ever since. And autism is my focus and has been my focus through my entire career. I just really enjoy working with autistic people of all ages.

And so building and teaching this program has been wonderful because we really focus on how to better the lives of people who are autistic across the lifespan. So it’s not a school-based program, it’s not a teacher prep program, it’s really a professional preparation program. And do you want me to talk about the program now or after when we get to the next thing? Oh, I can’t hear you.

INTERVIEWER: I was mute. Go figure. I was going to say, I’m going to let Dr. Lisa introduce herself then, we’re going to jump into more of the ABA versus ASD.

JODI DUKE: Perfect.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect. All right, Dr. Lisa, would you mind introducing yourself as well? You’re on mute also.

LISA TULLO: Yes I am. Thank you. So my name is Lisa Tullo. I’m an assistant professor here at George Mason. This is actually my first year as full-time faculty here. And so I have been able to experience it a little bit as a newbie as well. But it is a great program. So just– I’ll start with my background a little bit. My background is also in education. I have teaching certifications in both general and special education. Applied behavior analysis is my area of expertise. But I like to apply it to populations outside of autism.

So as you probably know, autism is the most popular population, that when people are getting their ABA certificate or coursework, they’re interested in working with individuals with autism. There are many more applications outside of that as well. For me in particular, organizational behavior management, teacher training students in general education that don’t have any kind of diagnosis closing that achievement gap, those are my areas of focus within applied behavior analysis.

INTERVIEWER: There you go, awesome. Thank you for sharing about yourself. We’re going to go ahead and move on a little further and we’re going to discuss some more of the programmatic details. If we want to jump back to Dr. Jodi Duke, if you want to go ahead and start sharing some about of the– about of the– some about the autism spectrum disorder side of the program and the certificate itself, we’d appreciate it.

JODI DUKE: Absolutely. So what can you expect? The autism program is– if you do the master’s, it’s more courses, but the autism part itself right now is a series of five courses, but we’re building a sixth that is going to kick off in the fall. So I think most people on this call would be in that program. So our courses are fully online and asynchronous, which means that we put all the content out each week and you pace yourself through it, which works really well we’ve found for professionals who are coming back, a lot of folks who are family members and supporting children or others who are autistic.

So it’s pretty flexible in that respect. You get to set your schedule, although we do have due dates throughout that week. So discussion boards are things that you’ll see a due date a little earlier. But in general, the program is really designed to give you all of the tools and knowledge that you need to work with autistic individuals. So everything from communication and literacy strategy to behavior and sensory supports.

We have a course that’s just characteristics where we really delve into all of the different elements of autism and what it looks like at the different levels of diagnosis. We have a class that focuses on evidence-based practices and really digging into one different evidence-based practice a week. So literally filling your toolbox with these different tools that the research shows have been– are very effective.

We have a class on collaboration and the life span where we actually– each module is a different chunk of the life span. So we take you from infancy and early childhood to school age and so on, all the way through aging. Looking at collaboration resources, everything you need to know about that part of life. And then the course that we’re building is exciting. It’s an assessment course that is also going to tie in intersectionality where we look at the intersection of race and gender identity and sexual identity and other positionality and how that intersects with autism and what it looks like for people. And then, of course, how do we support and empower those people throughout their lives as well?

So by the time you leave, you should have a very rich understanding of what autism looks like across many different levels of diagnosis and need, what tools you would use for different scenarios and situations, and really, just a pretty intensive program that prepares you for just about any career in the field.

INTERVIEWER: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to go ahead and hand it over to Lisa. Do you mind sharing a little bit more about the applied behavior analysis aspect of the master’s degree as well as the ABA certificate?

LISA TULLO: Sure. So there are seven courses for the certificate program. These seven courses will make you eligible to take the BACB exam once you’ve completed your fieldwork experience as well. If you want to do the master’s of education as well, there’s an additional three courses that you take. In terms of the ABA courses, it starts off with a broad survey course. You go into the principles of behavior analysis, all of those philosophical foundations. You then move into the research components, all those– everything that goes into the research that we base our interventions on.

You’ll cover assessment and intervention treatment planning. There is a course specifically on verbal behavior, which is usually a lot of students’ favorite. There is a course on ethics, which is very, very, very important. But all these courses are to prepare you to be a behavior analyst. And in terms of how it’s structured, it is similar in what Jodi was talking about with the format. All the information for the module or the week is released on a Monday. And then you have the whole week to complete it.

And everything is asynchronous, meaning there are no class meetings that are required. There are sometimes due dates throughout the week, but other than that, you can pretty much make your own schedule, which does make it very student-friendly for people who have responsibilities outside of school, which is pretty much everybody. Now one thing I do want to point out with the structure of our program is most of the classes have something called interteaching, which is a group assignment where you will answer a set of questions together, come up with a comprehensive response. There’s a lot of research behind this type of learning.

So that assignment you do typically meet virtually with your team, which might be one to two other people. So in terms of scheduling, that is something that needs to be scheduled, but you can do that at a time that’s convenient for everybody. The online courses, they are fully online and they are very intensive. So I think a lot of people have a misconception that because it’s online, it’s easier, and I think frequently it’s actually sometimes the opposite, because everything is compressed into such a short amount of time. But that, in a nutshell, is kind of what it looks like for us.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. Thank you so much for sharing all that information. Now we’re going to go ahead and move on to the question-and-answer portion of this afternoon. Usually there’s a lot of really good information hidden within these questions. So if you guys have any questions, feel free to drop them in the chat function or the Q&A box. Even questions about admissions, I’m here to answer those as well. So if you have anything at all, please feel free to ask those questions. I’ll give you a few minutes to go ahead and drop those in the chat.

All righty. So our first question, what does a typical day look like for a student in either the master’s or the certificate programs?

JODI DUKE: Lisa, I can start, and then maybe– OK. So this one is a great question, because the autism program, the day is really completely up to you. Like I said earlier, the work is set up– so our modules open at 12:01 AM Eastern Time on Tuesday mornings, and they close at 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Monday night. So when you, let’s say, wake up on Tuesday, you might– we often suggest you open Blackboard, which is the platform where our course is housed.

And you look at the module and you take a look at the checklist, because we always have a printable checklist for you. And I always suggest to students that you download that or you screenshot it, and somehow you use that to organize how you’re going to approach the assignments through the week. So in a lot of cases, students might spend Tuesday and Wednesday doing the readings that are assigned and exploring whatever resources like websites or other things, watching the lecture videos. And then perhaps Thursday, Friday, they work on discussion board assignments, because those do have intermediate due dates so that there’s time for peers to respond.

And then– and maybe over the weekend, you saved that and you spend time over the weekend working on the additional assignments that are always a part of the module. So you design how that looks, and you can spend 10 hours a day on the weekends working on this or you can pace it out and do a little bit every day. And so I think that’s the beauty of the program.

We have– I would say almost everyone is employed. Many full-time employees doing this on the side, and so this is often something people do in the evening. I definitely get emails at very interesting times and I always think that I hope people are sleeping, because in the middle of the night, emails happen. But you have complete autonomy, honestly, over the day and what it looks like.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. Thank you so much. Now our next question came from a student in the chat. What is one piece of advice for the applied behavior analysis master’s degree or one way to be successful?

LISA TULLO: So I have a couple of different things to say about that. One thing is more about this type of online program in general, to stay on top of your work. I would say that it’s really hard to catch up if you get really far behind in these very intensive eight-week courses. So trying to stay on things as much as possible, like Jodi was saying. Print off that checklist in the beginning of the week. Make a plan for how you’re going to complete your work so that you don’t get to the end of the module, get really busy with life and work and families, and then it’s the night before everything is due and then you just won’t have time to do it.

And then that feeds into how to be more successful in general, is take the work seriously in terms of don’t just complete it in order to get your grade. Be curious about what you’re reading. There’s always recommendations for additional readings, additional videos, things like that can really help further your education even more. Even if it’s not required and you don’t have time to do it in the week, definitely write down some of these things that you want to watch or read later, because it really does– it really does benefit you.

And then the last thing I would say is, try to leave any previous knowledge you have about behavior, try to leave that at the door when you’re coming into virtual class. Because the thing about behavior is everybody knows about behavior. We all have behavior, we all experience behavior in some sense. And we want you to think about behavior in a specific scientific way.

And so sometimes trying to leave what you already have learned, that prior knowledge out and trying to learn fresh can be very helpful for your success in the program and as behavior analysts.

INTERVIEWER: Awesome. I think that’s amazing and a really interesting way to think about it is to leave these preconceived ideas and learnings at the door and be open to learn new information. So I really appreciate that. The next question looks like it’s going to be for me. And it says, with the application process, I just want to verify the recommendation requirements. So most of our applications here will require two professional letters of recommendation. And the ABA program or the master’s of special education program, it does require that you have two professional letters of recommendation and at least one of them needs to be from a current or former supervisor.

So if you need any more additional information on that or have any questions, feel free to reach out to your assigned admissions representative. Or you can give my office a call at the phone number on the screen. It’s going to be 703-348-5006.

All righty. So our next question says, I’m interested in the master’s degree in special education with the ABA certificate. Would you please share some more about the internships or student teaching piece and also about the process from ABA certificate to BCBA? So before I hand this over, I know here in the office we usually try and specify to students that by pursuing the master’s with the ABA certificate, will allow you to lead to BCBA licensure. But the ABA certificate itself only leads to becoming a board-certified assistant behavior analyst. So Lisa, will you elaborate on that a little bit?

LISA TULLO: Sure. So currently our program does not have a practicum requirement, it doesn’t have an internship housed in the program. So once you start coursework, you can start accruing hours that go towards your certification. In terms of the actual internship that you do, the supervisor that you get, ultimately that is up to you. However, we ask faculty can help connect you to find those resources.

Typically our students are already working when they come into the program. Most of them, I would say, are not looking to start a new job, but if they’re already working in a school or something like that, that they are wanting to accrue hours in their current setting, and so they need to find a supervisor.

But like I said, there’s no practicum requirement. So it is independent fieldwork that you will be doing. But once you complete the coursework and then you complete all of the hours that you need to complete, then you would be eligible to sit for the exam. And I think there was a second part of that question about how many courses are offered each year. So how many courses are offered? Most of them are– at least half of them to almost all of them are offered each semester, at least for the fall and the spring– fewer are offered in the summer. However, usually I’d say students take one to two at a time. Like I’ve said multiple times, they’re very, very intensive, so you would not be taking more than that at once.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. Yeah, here in the office, usually what we tell students– and correct me if I’m wrong because that’ll be new information for us, typically we have students take two classes per semester and they do that one at a time. So they’re an eight-week modules. Perfect. So we divide the semester and half. The first eight weeks, students will be taking one course; the second eight weeks, students will be taking another.

That way, you have the week to work– or– goodness gracious. That way you can focus one class at a time. And typically we find that students are more successful in that format. Would you guys agree? Awesome, awesome. So just to reiterate what Lisa was sharing, is that by pursuing the master’s degree here at Mason with the ABA concentration, is you’ll be prepared to take the BCBA exam, but you need to add that in with your independent fieldwork hours. So those hours are not housed within the program here at Mason. That would be something that is your responsibility to go out and do and complete because it’s not required as a part of the program.

With that being said, will actually lead me into my next question. And Lisa, you did touch on this pretty heavily. So if you only have anything to add, that’s fine so it says, since Mason does not provide or require those supervised hours, do professors or faculty ever step in to point students in the right direction? If so, what resources are provided?

LISA TULLO: Yeah, so absolutely. We want to help you find these placements or these supervised hours. And so you can reach out to any of the faculty in the ABA program. Dr. Kristi Park is the one who, I’d say, is the most connected to these kinds of experiences. So she’s a really good resource to reach out to. But if you are looking for a– to accrue hours in a school setting versus a clinic setting versus a home setting, these are all possibilities. And if you just reach out to one of the professors, then we can help get you connected to a place that you can accrue that type of experience.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. I appreciate you elaborating on that. Now we’re going to give Lisa little bit of break, jump back to Jodi. Jodi, for this question, how can students feel connected despite the virtual modality? And what advice do you have to help them build relationships with their peers and also with their professors?

JODI DUKE: It’s a great question, because I think that’s one of the big concerns when you hear asynchronous, is, will I get the connection and opportunity to interact? And we actually– it’s a huge priority in our program to engage with our students. So we do offer program meetings where we bring speakers in. We keep going back and forth on the name of these events, but it’s almost like my colleague Dr. Francis likes to call it, like a coffee talk kind of thing, even though it’s virtual and you have to bring your own coffee.

But bringing in different speakers, talking about documentaries, telling people, watch this and then join us to discuss it. So we do embed a lot of those more structured opportunities. And then the other part that is up to the discretion of the student is really that we are here to connect with each of you, and that’s what we enjoy the very most. So over the course of the eight-week course, you will do a lot of interacting. Some of us hold weekly office hours. I do that every Wednesday night. You can drop in and ask questions or just talk or listen to other people’s questions. So that’s always an open door opportunity.

And really, I think we build a lot of relationships with our students through grading the work that you submit. We read what you write on discussion boards. We do emails, we set up Zoom sessions. So there is a lot of interaction. I actually had a former student email me today with a question from an IEP meeting that she was just trying to make sure she was doing the right thing. And so the relationships do continue, which is really rewarding for us as well.

LISA TULLO: And I just wanted to piggyback on that a little bit. I’d say, again, there are a lot of similarities. But the kind of groupwork that I was talking about before really builds a community. I think a lot of people go into groupwork thinking, oh, groupwork is the worst. But the students end up loving these types of assignments. They have opportunities to have live interaction with their peers every week, which is really great. Office hours are really great for that, too.

Typically at the end of each module, there’s a clarifying lecture. So you can send questions throughout the week, and then your professor, depending on the course, will post a lecture that you can watch that’s tailored to the questions that you have. But there are lots of opportunities for interaction even though class is not held synchronously.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. I really appreciate that clarification. Now our next question, going back to the supervised hours needed in order to sit for the BCBA exam, does the supervisor need to hold a master’s in special education? What are the specific requirements they’ll need? Do they need to be a BCBA, et cetera.

LISA TULLO: Yeah. So the supervisor has to be a board-certified behavior analyst, and they had to have completed the supervision requirements. And this is an ever-changing requirement. So you always– I’m going to always refer you back to the Behavior Analysis Certification Board website, because that is where you will always find the most current standards. So there are certain requirements that they need to be able to supervise you. And they have to do those prior to starting your supervision hours or your hours will not count.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect. Thank you for that clarification. Now our next question, do IEPs carry on to graduate school? So I’m going to assume that this is specific to the student themselves. So do either one of you have any insight on that?

JODI DUKE: It’s such a good question, and I just talked about IEPs, so I hope I didn’t confuse anyone. But actually, something happens a little differently in higher education, which is that once you decide that you want to apply and you go through the process and you are admitted, we can then connect you with Mason’s Disability Services Office. And they have an onboarding process where they’ll talk with you and ask for some documentation, and then they will provide you with a letter of accommodations if you need that.

You then email, or if it’s in-person, you talk to us, but since these are online, you would then share that letter with us at the start of a semester, start of a course. And then each professor will make sure that you have the accommodations that you need to be successful. So it can be anything from extended time on assignments to making sure that you have the handouts or notes to every PowerPoint.

We actually have– both programs are designed with a lot of these things already embedded to make this what we call universal design so that it helps everyone, but that’s the process that each individual could go through and we’re always happy to assist in connecting with Disability Services. My student who I was referring to earlier is a special educator, so that’s why she was working on an IEP in case that was confusing.

INTERVIEWER: No worries, no worries. I appreciate you elaborating on that. It’s not a question I’ve had before, so it’s really nice to know that correct procedure will be for the future. Now our next question– these two go together, so I’m going to ask them together and you can both elaborate if you wish. So how can students best balance their work and life, especially if something happens that prevents them from doing their assignments for the week– a death in the family or if you’re having a baby and it just doesn’t work out? And then how much time should each student plan to dedicate to the program per week? And then what about deadline times?

LISA TULLO: So I can start with this. So before I was saying, you need to stay on top of your work to be successful. That being said, there are things in life that happen, and the professors are very understanding with that. You are a person, you are not just a student. If you have a baby or you have a death in the family or you get really sick or something like that, of course we are going to help you get caught up as much as we can.

So when you are healthy and things are going well, stay on top of your work as much as possible. But definitely be communicating with your professor if there is something that comes up. It’s much harder if at the end of the semester you got really behind you weren’t turning in any of the work and it turns out in week 2 there was– you had a death in the family and you have not been able to catch up from that. So please communicate with your professors. We want to help you. We want you to be successful. We’re very, very, very invested in you.

So there are also– with the baby specifically, there are accommodations for things like that. And that might be a separate conversation. I know that was just an example. I feel like I got off of this topic. But I’d say around 15 hours or more per week for a course in applied behavior analysis. Deadlines. Generally the course policies are you need to submit them by the deadline.

But if you reach out to your professor ahead of time, I think you will find that we are very flexible and accommodating. Now it’s different if you were to take a three-hour– or a three-hour– a three-week vacation to Hawaii versus having something that’s happening in your life that’s negatively impacting what is going on.

JODI DUKE: The practices in the Autism Program are very similar. And over the last two years, we have really become well-versed in flexibility because of life issues. We’ve had so many students who have COVID or are taking care of someone who had COVID or all of the challenges with everything we’ve been going through that we’re the same way as what Lisa’s saying.

We ask for open communication as early as you know something is coming. And then we can help you make a plan. It’s very hard to help after the fact. And so just what Lisa was saying, please let us know as soon as you know something’s going on. And I think that’s one of the ways that we build community, too, is establishing that flexibility and trust.

The workload for the Autism Program is less, I would say, than the BCBA. Kind of the board makes it. What you guys have is very rigorous. You will still work hard, but I would say maybe five to seven hours a week if you are a pretty good worker. If you struggle with reading or writing things, it could take a little longer, but that’s what I would estimate.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect. I love that you guys elaborated a lot on the communication aspect. I think that’s something important to note, is especially just keep your professors in the loop. I also represent a handful of other programs, and that’s what every professor says, is just keep us updated and we will do everything we can to help you. I really love that. So my next question– looks like it might be for me. When can we start if we are finished with the application, say, today?

So unfortunately, no, you can’t exactly start today. I do love the eagerness. It depends on which program you want. So our Master’s of Special Education and our ABA certificate both have summer starts. If you’re ready to start as soon as possible, that day would be April 25. I would encourage you to get in contact with your admissions representative that you’ve been assigned to so they can look over your application, make sure it’s complete and it has truly been submitted.

If you haven’t yet been assigned to an admissions representative, please call the number on the screen or send us an email. April 25 works for me. Perfect. I, Rachel, would still encourage you to reach out to an admissions representative. Sometimes there’s a bit of confusion between on-campus versus online programs. So I highly, highly, highly encourage you to go ahead and reach out. I’ve also got your name written down to follow up with you later.

Yes. I love Lauren. She’s the best. I’ll let her know that you were here. And it sounds like you’re good to go, so yes. As long as you’re doing the Masters or the ABA certificate, you’re good to go in April. If you’re interested in the ASD, the autism side, we have an Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate, we have that starting in August. So we don’t have a summer start, but we do have a fall start for that program and to take a– good for you, congratulations. If someone’s not looking, she said she had to take a hiatus to beat breast cancer, so she’s ready. I love that, that’s so sweet.

LISA TULLO: Congratulations.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, amen. Perfect, perfect. So like I was saying, we’ve got an Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate start for fall, but we do not have one for summer. So if you guys have any confusion on that, please reach out to us. Our contact info is on the screen.

Our last few questions and we’re going to start wrapping up. Everyone’s saying congratulations, I love this. Perfect, perfect. Let’s see here. Now speaking of admissions, this will probably be a good question. How can each student stand out as an applicant and if you don’t have too much insight into the application process, what makes students successful that you’ve seen that they kind of bring into the program?

JODI DUKE: I don’t have a huge hand in the process, so I want to be very upfront about that. But I actually think what just happened is such a great example of what makes students successful. And the way that Rachel, you shared and you told us something about yourself, and you also asked questions. And all of you, Empress and– who else is in here? Destiny, the way you’ve been asking questions and putting yourself out there is exactly how you would be successful in the programs.

You can also see how quickly we build community. So even through discussion boards and things like that, we already get a sense of knowing each other at some level. So I think the other piece that Lisa touched on is staying on track. Eight weeks flies by, and we would pack a lot in. We structure it– every week is the same with the checklist and the module components.

So set up a routine for yourself and really get in that routine. And then lean into the community, lean into your peers. In the autism program, it’s cohort style, so you stay together through your courses. And students really get to know each other and lean on each other and reach out to faculty with the same intention. And I think all of that paired with one other thing, which, Lisa, you also already said, but the idea of making sure that you’re not just in this for the grades.

And I think in either of these two programs, it’s fair to say that this is not a career that you choose just because it seems like an easy route. So you definitely need to have a passion for the people that you’re going to end up working with, and you need to really care. And that definitely comes through students who want to check in about something that they did not because they’re necessarily arguing over getting another point or two, but they want to understand and they want to make sure they have the right idea and the right conceptualizations, and I think that can make this extremely powerful.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. Thank you so much for sharing. We’ve got two more questions left, so if anybody has anything left that we haven’t answered, go ahead and drop that in the chat. So the next to last, what is, for each of you, Jodi and Lisa, what is your favorite part of teaching this program and what’s your favorite course that you’ve taught so far?

LISA TULLO: I can start with this one. So honestly, my favorite part about teaching is getting to know you as the students. And I’m not saying that because this is a panel for admissions. It is actually the reason why I got into higher education in general. I really, really love getting to know all of you and learning from all of you. I think students don’t realize how much the professors also learn from the students. Really and truly, there’s lots of different diversity in terms of just backgrounds and where you’re working and how you want to apply behavior analysis. And I really do learn a lot from you as well.

And I think it’s really great. ABA especially is a always a rapidly-changing field. And so it’s great to see how the program develops as the field changes. In terms of a favorite class, most of my university training is in verbal behavior, so there’s a special place for a verbal behavior, but I’m also a methods person. So all the classes that have to do with conducting research are also my favorite. They’re all my favorite.

JODI DUKE: I would say that my favorite is also the students, and I really enjoy seeing where students land after the program ends and sort of where it takes them. And so we have– I love getting interact because graduates keep in touch. So we have people who have started their own businesses, we have someone who runs something called spectrum transition coaching, which is a business that she supports high school students as they decide what to do in terms of post-secondary, whether they’re going to college or work.

I love being in the classrooms and seeing our students. Lots of professional organizations and other jobs. And I think that just those interactions are definitely the best part. My favorite course hands down is EDSE 620, Behavior and Sensory, because I just love all things behavior-related. And this is a really cool class where we dig into the communicative intent of behavior and then develop intervention ideas just to support the individual.

And I really like it because in the last couple of years, we’ve been getting quite a few students who have family members who are autistic, parents of children, or even grandparents and other relatives, or who are working in the field already. And so we do spend a lot of time analyzing their real-world issues. And I really enjoy that, being able to teach students how to take this concept and apply it to something that’s really tricky in their life and then seeing how that changes the behavior and studying the data on that.

INTERVIEWER: Awesome, awesome. It looks like the last question is going to be for me. How long does it take for your admissions decision to come back after you’ve applied? Generally we say anywhere between two and six weeks here in the office. I know that may seem like a large window, but it really depends on the time of year you’re applying if you’re applying a semester ahead. So something to keep in mind is that we work on a rolling admissions basis.

So the sooner you get your application turned into us, the quicker we can get you an admissions decision. If you wait towards the end, you may be waiting a little bit longer than if you had done it in the beginning just because, of course, naturally a lot of students wait until the very last minute to submit their applications. So that’s always something to keep in mind, is the sooner the better.

Oh, and then we have one more. When is the deadline to apply for summer? Off the top of my head I’m not sure. I know those were announced pretty recently. But Empress, I will have your admissions representative reach out to you and you can discuss that with them. That way, you can also talk about a really good timeline to make sure that your application gets completed. Oh, and there’s another last question. Is there an additional cost for books and can you please remind of the FCPS discount?

So your admissions representative probably gave you a total number when you spoke with them the first time. There is an additional cost for books that’s not included in that number, and I’ll tell you the reason. Honestly, it’s because students get their books from pretty much any way, any website, any friend they can. I see Jodi nodding her head. If you have friends that have gone through the program before, you can buy their textbooks. You can do it at the Barnes & Noble bookstore. There’s just such a number of different ways to get those books that’s really hard to give you that estimate.

What else? FCPS discount. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure if that is specifically applicable to the online program or not. I know that there’s been some back and forth between that. Jodi or Lisa, do the answer to that by any chance?

JODI DUKE: I know that we offer a discount to Fairfax County teachers for our in-person cohort programs, but I don’t think that they apply to the online. I am about 80% certain about that, though, so please double check my response. Lisa, are you more certain than 80% possibly?

LISA TULLO: I’m fairly– I’m 95% sure. For us at least for on campus track there is a discount, but for the fully online track, there is not.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, yeah. Another question–

JODI DUKE: –in the Q&A, too.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, I missed that one.

JODI DUKE: OK. I didn’t want to miss Mildred.

INTERVIEWER: I’m going to read it off. It says, are request more light for online programs for international students and how long is the master’s program? Perfect. So for international students, the application process has two additional steps. Here at Mason, your international status is based on where you most recently completed your degree, not where you are currently living. So if your most recent degree was completed outside of the US, you’d be applying as an international student.

That means you need, in addition to the application, you would need a NACES-accredited transcript evaluation, as well as an English fluency exam. We usually accept TOEFL, IELTS, and currently we’re accepting Duolingo. But Mildred, I would encourage you to give our office a call at the number above, 703-348-5006. That way, we can get you connected with a specific admissions representative and they’ll be able to walk you through each step as it is specific to your situation.

Perfect, perfect. All right, friends. Do we have any last-minute questions that we can answer before I let everyone go? A thank you, of course.

LISA TULLO: Is it OK if I put my email in the chat in case anyone–

INTERVIEWER: Yes, of course. Of course.

LISA TULLO: –about– not about admissions, I will not be able to help you with that.

INTERVIEWER: Send those to me.

LISA TULLO: Here is– yeah. In case you have any program questions.

INTERVIEWER: Perfect, perfect. Yep. And it looks like Jodi’s email is in there as well. So if you have any program-specific questions, feel free to reach out to them. Jodi and Lisa, I want to greatly thank you for your time this afternoon. If you guys have any admissions questions, please feel free to reach out to my office. If you’ve already been assigned to an admissions representative, they will reach out to you when you contact us. If you have not, you’ll be assigned, so you’ll get one of us.

And with that, I’m going to go ahead and let everyone go. I hope everyone has a wonderful rest of their Tuesday. And like I said, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

JODI DUKE: Thank you, everyone.

LISA TULLO: Thank you.


MS Computer Science Transcript

LAUREN: All right. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our Virtual Open House for our online Master’s of Computer Science here at George Mason. We are very excited to begin here in just a few minutes. However, I just want to let everyone get logged in and situated here. So we’ll begin around 12:05, as individuals start trickling in on here.

Just to make sure everyone can hear me and the features are working correctly, just input your name and where you’re joining us from today in the chat box here. All right. Looks like we have a few people typing in the chat box. Welcome Billy, Jose, Lance, Josh, Ryan, and Charlie. Welcome.

All right, wonderful. Well, now that more people have joined, we will go ahead and get started here. So thank you again for everyone for joining us here this afternoon, and we’re excited to get started. My name is Lauren. I’m an online admissions representative here at George Mason for the Online Master’s in Computer Science program.

I’m here is a resource to just give information, answer questions, and guide you through the entire admissions and application process here if this something you are interested in moving forward with. Before we just get into a little bit of housekeeping, there is a questions box and a chat box feature as well on your screen. Feel free to use the questions and chat box to input any questions or comments during the duration of the virtual open house. However, we won’t address those questions until the end of the event here.

All right, so a quick overview of what we are going to go over this afternoon is we are joined by our program director here, Dr. Robert Pettit. So he will just start by telling us a little bit more about himself, his role, touch a bit more on the program, career outcomes, and just what the whole online program consists of. So Dr. Rob, if you want to start taking it off here.

ROB PETTIT: OK. Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining. I’m Rob. I am actually an alumni of George Mason University. I have my master’s and PhD from here.

And I have taught as an adjunct for a number of years before joining full time just this last fall. I spent 30-some-odd years in industry as a practicing software engineer. And I’m the program director for the online program as well as professor of practice within our department teaching software engineering and computer science courses for both the undergrad and graduate level.

So you can go ahead and next slide. So just to give you a little bit of overview about the Master of Science in Computer Science. We can skip to the next one, which is about our course offerings. So this is still subject to change. The Master’s of Science in Computer Science, the online version, is really brand new. We really just started this program.

And so in terms of completing your degree online, the way that the MSCS is set up is that you’ll need 30 credits to graduate. The courses have to come from at least two topic areas and you need at least four courses that are considered advanced. And so I tried to put this chart together to map this out.

We’re going to offer a subset of the classes that you can find from the MSCS catalog. If you go to the George Mason catalog online, you’ll see many, many more classes than what I’m showing here. But tentatively at least, we’re going to try to offer you classes in the areas of AI and databases, programming languages and software engineering, systems and networks, and visual computing.

Now the ones that have a check mark by them already are ones that will be available by fall of next year that we’ve already developed. The other ones, I say subject to change because based on professor availability and such, we might change these around a little bit. But we will certainly have a full offering to get you through a Master’s of Computer Science. The ones that have the asterisks, also you have the option of potentially waiving those by taking a test, which I’ve linked in the slides, or you can find on the CS department’s home page.

All right, so let’s go to the next slide. In terms of admissions requirements, the admissions requirements for the online MSCS are exactly the same as the requirements for the regular Master’s in Computer Science. And that’s one thing that I want to emphasize to anybody considering this program, is that this is not some watered down degree. It’s not going to say online on your diploma, it’s not going to be a lesser MSCS degree. This is going to be a legit, full-fledged Master’s of Science in Computer Science just like you would receive in the on-campus experience, but by doing it asynchronously and online.

So for admissions requirements, you have the online application, we need your transcripts, we need a resume, a goal statement, two letters of recommendation. The GRE is still optional. We will look at it if you want to provide it. We try to do a holistic approach to the admissions process. But that’s completely optional right now.

And then you need a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. There is a little wiggle room in that. If you don’t quite have a 3.0, but you’ve shown strength through your last couple semesters, or you have good grades in your CS and math classes as an undergrad, we will consider that.

But you do need to have an earned bachelor’s degree that includes Calc I and II, discrete math, data structures, automata theory and formal languages, and computer architecture that includes some level of assembly programming. And then for any international students, but there’s some additional requirements based on language requirements and such for their processing.

So those are basically it. If you don’t have that background, there are classes that you can take at the community college level that would certainly cover calculus I and II. It’s a little more difficult to get discrete math and automata theory covered at the community college level, but there are ways to get those prerequisites and then apply. OK, next slide, please.

So some of the selling points about the online program. One is that it is flexible. The courses are structured to be asynchronous online and they’re structured in terms of weekly modules. So we don’t want you to just all of a sudden, in the last week of the semester, log on to Blackboard and try to complete the class. But they are asynchronous on a weekly basis.

Within that, the professor will typically have office hours that they hold that would be a synchronized time where you can join in and ask questions in some sort of live forum. That would also be recorded. And unlike some of the other online MSCS programs that you might see, we do provide you with access to our actual professors.

These are not MOOCs, or massively online courses. And you’re typically looking at 70 or less in a course, usually much less than that. And you have access to our regular professors. So they’re accessible over email and via office hours. That was one thing that was really important to us in setting up this program.

It’s also the same courses that you would have in the on-campus program. So as I said, it’s a subset of those courses, but these are not a different listing of the courses. These are actually the courses that we would be offering on campus, just maybe not all of them.

And also you will have a unified structure to your courses. So partnering with Wiley on this, we’re making sure that all of our Blackboard online courses look and feel the same so that once you get the hang of what it feels like to be in an online course, you should be able to navigate these courses consistently across your degree. All right, next slide, please.

So that, in a nutshell, is where we’re at with this, that if you’re interested in applying, you can start your online application at Or if you have any questions, please reach out to your admissions advisor. And I would welcome people to email me as well. My email is somewhere on there.

It’s simply rpettit– R-P-E-T-I-T– I am the program director, so if I can’t get the question, I’ll– or can’t get to the answer, I will find somebody who easily can. All right, should we open it up to questions now?


ROB PETTIT: All right–

LAUREN: Apologies. I was on mute. It looks like we had a student asking if we can have– if they can attend both on campus and the online computer science program simultaneously?

ROB PETTIT: So my understanding is that if you’re enrolled in the online program, you can only attend the online classes. But there is a process– so say you’re in the middle of the degree and you decide, well, I’d really like to be on campus. There is a process where you can apply for, I think it’s called a change of campus form, and you can actually switch to being an on campus student at that point.

So that’s fairly straightforward, they tell me. And then I see the other question about the exam set up so that they can be completed remotely or with the local proctor. So the exams are set up so they can be completed remotely.

LAUREN: OK. Perfect. And it looks like we did have some other questions. So Dr. Pettit, some students do have a lot of fears with online education overall.

ROB PETTIT: Understandable.

LAUREN: So how will the faculty maintain that communication with the students? And I know you suggested the simultaneous– I mean, the synchronous webinars, and are there any opportunities to network within the program as well?

ROB PETTIT: So these are things that we’re learning as we go about networking opportunities. We’re still figuring that out a little bit. But in terms of communication with the professors, they’re very accessible via both email and on the Blackboard learning management system. We have discussion boards that the professors set up, so those are easy ways that we can communicate.

We have to do it within the bounds of FERPA regulations. So we can’t just simply publish everybody’s email like you could at one point in time. But we do have the learning management system, the Blackboard set up so that you can collaborate via there easily.

LAUREN: Wonderful. Looks like we did have another question come through asking if lectures were prerecorded by the faculty, or is it more leaning towards thorough reading assignments?

ROB PETTIT: So lectures are pre-recorded. Each learning module structured by week will have pre-recorded lectures. In addition, I’m sure that there are some reading assignments, depending on the course as well. But yes, there are no recorded lectures. It’s not go read a book and then take a test.


ROB PETTIT: That would be awful.

LAUREN: Yeah. Wonderful, thank you for that. So Dr. Pettit, what would you specifically recommend in terms of coursework or independent study for someone looking to switch into this field? I know you were previously discussing taking some of the prerequisites at community college. Is there any other suggestions you would have for these types of students?

ROB PETTIT: So actually, yes. We don’t have this online yet, but starting in the fall, we have a new approved certificate program. We’re just calling it the MSCS bridge certificate.

So for anybody that is coming into us with a non-CS background and needs those foundation courses, we now have an organized certificate set up through George Mason where you can take– and I’m blanking on the number of courses, but basically the foundation courses and receive a certificate that says, OK, now you are ready to join the Master of Science in Computer Science, and that would prep you for either joining the online MOOCs or our on-campus MSCS.

LAUREN: That’s a great opportunity. Thank you for sharing that with us. It looks like someone else asked if there were any group projects within this program?

ROB PETTIT: I’m trying to think, since I don’t teach all the classes. I think we– there certainly might be. But I believe we have tried to minimize that.

I don’t know that any of us really like the idea of group projects for an online experience. I have used them before in some online classes, and– so if we do use them, they would be carefully structured to support the online environment. We wouldn’t just be taking something that we do on campus and then tossing it to you in the online environment without making some accommodation for that.

LAUREN: Wonderful. So would you say there’s going to be any additional electives added to the program in the near future, or concentrations to come?

ROB PETTIT: So our contract with Wiley is for a total of 13 courses. I was just reading the contract today to see exactly what kind of leeway I get in structuring this. So for the near term, probably not, because we’re contracted to 13 courses, and that’s essentially what we need to do to have you progress through the system. But I would say that depending on the success of this program and how many students we end up getting, we can probably make a good selling point for adding classes in the future as this takes off.

LAUREN: Thank you. So I’m not seeing– I saw Samad put in the chat, asking if this program was in person or online? So Samad, this program is offered both in campus and online. But this virtual open house is specifically towards the fully online program. And if you have additional questions on program specifics or anything, feel free to reach out to either Rob or myself at the phone number provided above as well.

ROB PETTIT: And I saw two other questions on there about a capstone, or a thesis. The MSCS does not have– the online MSCS does not have a capstone or thesis component to it. It’s all based on the coursework. And somebody asked about working full time.

That’s a personal preference, but I can tell you from my own experience that I worked full time through both the master’s and the PhD here at George Mason. The master’s, absolutely no problem. In fact, I mostly did it two classes at a time. But the PhD, I would not necessarily recommend working full time, having been there, done that. The coursework was fine, but the dissertation while working full time is a challenge.

LAUREN: So building off of that, what are your– or what are the expectations of the students on a weekly basis? How many hours should they be dedicating to their studies in order to be successful?

ROB PETTIT: Oh, goodness. I don’t have a good concept of that, and it’s really a personal– yeah, it has to be individualized. Everybody reads at a different level and studies at a different level. I would say a minimum of 10 hours to certainly no more than 20 hours, depending on your study skills and so forth.

And I would say that depending on how fast you want this degree, we have people that do one class at a time, or two classes at a time. We’re not doing the cohort model where we force you into a given pace. So it is certainly plausible to stretch this out and do it over a longer period of time, one class at a time.

LAUREN: Looks like someone else was asking about opportunities for internships, fellowships, or graduate assistantships within this online program.

ROB PETTIT: Those are things we have not particularly thought of yet, or figured out a process for with how we would handle online virtual assistantships fellowships and such. So we’re working on things like that to figure that out, as well as the– there was also a question about interacting with other students. So those are things that we want to start working on as well. Again, this program is brand new. So you’re right at the front of our learning curve with some of these outside experiences.

LAUREN: All right. It looks like we had another question here about with the recorded lectures in Blackboard set up with Coursera, and if there was any pros or cons to George Mason’s online setup that you can see of now?

ROB PETTIT: Every learning management system has its own pros and cons. There are people that like Blackboard, there are people that hate Blackboard. There are people that like Canvas and there are people that hate Canvas.

So I will tell you that we do use a unified system. So I will not name names of other universities. I have my own sons in their undergraduate programs at different places. And one has experienced a terrible time with his university that one class might use Blackboard, one class might use something else, one class might use this other thing that you have to pay for.

George Mason does not do that. That’s across the board. That’s across our undergraduate programs, our graduate programs. For better or for worse, we use Blackboard so you know where you need to go when you need to find something, whether that be your grades, your learning modules, anything that you need to interact with can easily be found in Blackboard. Compared–

LAUREN: There’s also–

ROB PETTIT: Yeah, go ahead.

LAUREN: I was going to say, there’s also that 24/7 Blackboard support. So if you’re just starting to transition from that different type of learning platform, it is pretty user friendly. But they’re there to assist you as well, and along with the faculty and us as well.

ROB PETTIT: Yeah. And you mentioned Coursera. Coursera has some interesting one-off courses that you can take, but no organized curriculum model. And you’ll end up with a certificate for each of those classes, but nothing that would support a degree. And you don’t have access, really, to a professor there, whereas with us do.

And we are intentionally not going with the massively online presence so that you would always have access to the George Mason professors. And we’re seeing a mix of students, addressing the last question that come in. We are getting ones that are coming straight out of their bachelor’s degrees and going directly into the master’s, and ones that have been out in the world for years and are trying to come back and get a technical degree. Some who needed to take the foundation courses, and some who had a CS degree many years ago and are coming back. So it’s a wide range that we’re seeing in this programming.

Programming language proficiency. I don’t like to depend on any one particular programming language. My thought is that you should understand the concepts, particularly of object-oriented software construction. So know the basics of class-based programming.

So sure, that leads you to mostly Java or C++. But my thought as a computer scientist is that I should be able to switch between languages and apply the concepts as long as I know the concepts of those algorithmic constructs, and I’ll be going into construction. I’m fine.

LAUREN: Looks like someone was asking also about the types of machine learning that’s covered in this program.

ROB PETTIT: So that is still a little bit up in the air. I’m hoping to put it in there, we just need to make sure that we’ve got the availability of the instructors to dedicate their time to creating the online experience for those classes and be able to teach it.

AI and machine learning is certainly an up-and-coming field, and George Mason has a strong presence on campus for that. I just need to make sure that we have the dedicated resources to have those professors create the online experience.

LAUREN: I’m not seeing any other questions as of now. Dr. Pettit, is there anything else that you would like to share with the students here today, or why George Mason might be a good fit for them overall?

ROB PETTIT: Well, obviously, as an alumni, I am partial to George Mason. I personally think that we have one of the best overall CS and software engineering curriculums, certainly in the area, if not nationwide. We have very highly qualified professors that are passionate in their field.

And by virtue of being where we are in the DC metro area, the employers know George Mason. We are ideally poised for, at least anybody in the area, to connect with companies during job fairs, internships, and such. And we need to learn how to do that in an online environment as well, but that is one huge advantage of George Mason’s proximity.

And George Mason has historically been very supportive of the part time students and the working students. That was actually one of the things that drew me into George Mason for my master’s degree versus other universities that I had the opportunity to choose from, was that I couldn’t take time off work. So George Mason really made that fit into my schedule.

LAUREN: Thank you for sharing that. Well, I’m not seeing any other questions as of right now. If anyone does have any other questions on next steps, or just want to walk through the application or admissions process, just reach out to the phone number I provided in the chat here earlier today, or feel free to reach out to Rob, as stated.

But I do want to thank everyone for being here and joining us today. We really appreciate all the thorough questions. And thank you, Dr. Pettit, for going over the specifics here, and letting everyone know what to more expect in this program. But hopefully everyone has a great rest of the day, and we hope to chat with everyone soon.

ROB PETTIT: Yes, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions that you think of later.

LAUREN: Thank you, everyone.

ROB PETTIT: Thank you.

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